When I first started writing, the only thing I knew about outlining was that I hated it. I didn’t know the words yet for pantser or plotter, but I knew the difference between writing with a solid plan and writing by the seat of my pants.
I plotted my first novel, LUCID, with little success. No, that doesn’t mean the outline sucked. The outline was great! It had all the components an outline should have. I had a beginning, middle, and end. I even broke it up into sections. What was I missing? The point. However, outlining my first novel (three times, no less) taught me a lot about the outlining process.
- Write down all your ideas! I mean that. Every single one of them! Some of them won’t make it into your “final” outline. That’s okay. Still write down every idea that comes to your mind including plot, dialogue, characters, setting. Anything. It all helps in the long run.
- Write down major plot points or scenes on notecards. This is my personal method. Some people can do this on the computer, but I’m a very visual person. I like to spread ’em out on my bed.
- Organize them! This might take a while or maybe you know where your story is going. Shift them around until you have a cohesive story, then go back and fill in the blanks.
- Type it out. This is a step that involves multiple steps. I write my outline on Scrivener and start with the beginning of the book. But before I type a scene in, I ask myself…
- What is it doing for the plot?
- Is it necessary? Why?
- What does it reveal about my characters?
The problem I had with my outline (and eventual draft) of LUCID was that I had tons of unnecessary scenes that didn’t move the plot along. I had them there because I wanted them there and hey, I had the idea. Why not? Remember: Any scene can be made important by even just adding a line of mysterious or revealing dialogue.
BOOM. You have an outline.
Something that always worried me out outlines was that I felt like once I wrote it, my work was set in stone. That is not the case. My current WIP, THE KING’S DAUGHTER, had tons of scribbles all over the outline by the time I was done (though not as many as LUCID).
I have another blog post, Outlines, very similar to this if you want to take a look! I have a love/hate relationship with outlines now because I see how helpful they are. It makes drafting so much easier. I never stare at a blank screen because my outline is right next to me!
How do you feel about outlining? Are you a pantser or a plotter?