Writing

Outlining Your Novel Part I

In the writing world, there’s a lot of disagreement surrounding the use of outlining (really, only writers could find ways to argue about something so mundane).

Everyone has an opinion on the topic, whether it’s for or against…

“I don’t plot the books out ahead of time, I don’t plan them. I don’t begin at the beginning and end at the end. I don’t work with an outline and I don’t work in a straight line.” ~ Diana Gabaldon

“Outlining is like putting on training wheels. It gives me the courage to write, but we always go off the outline.” ~ Hallie Ephron

“The more work you put in on your outline and getting the skeleton of your story right, the easier the process is later.”  ~Drew Goddard

“I always have a basic plot outline, but I like to leave some things to be decided while I write.” ~ J. K. Rowling

…which means that there’s no wrong or right answer. Pick what’s best for you. The most important thing is that you sit down and write.

I don’t care whether you prefer to outline or never outline at all—the most important thing is that you sit down and write. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on the topic—I do, what writer doesn’t? (See the graphic above for my method)

First of all, I began writing the first draft of my book Spring of my 8th-grade year (i.e. I had no idea what I was doing). At this time, I had a vague understanding of what an outline was. In my mind, I saw “the sandwich” model—where the intro and conclusion are the pieces of bread and the meat/lettuce/cheese are the augments.  Fast forward to February of my junior year of high school, I finished the first draft of my novel (all 50,000 words of it). By this time, I had “outlined” if you can call it that, by following the steps in the graphic.

If you want a more traditional outline, then more power to you. This method worked for me but won’t work for everyone. When writing it is always best to find what works best for you. There’s no correct way to outline or plan (at least in the first draft) the most important thing is that you WRITE.

Stay tuned for next week, where I’ll be writing on the next steps of outlining a novel beyond the first draft.

1 thought on “Outlining Your Novel Part I

  1. For me, outlining is a way to remember what first inspired me to sit down and write a story. I focus on emotional scenes surrounding my protagonist and antagonist mainly. What are their plans? How are they wrong? Do they learn or not? Do they change or not? I’m not so worried about the plot. The plot is something that fills in around those set ups, the breathing room. These things happen, leading up to this moment when the hero is bamboozled by this or that, and that is the creative jam that is fun to make while writing. Always keeping in mind that the point is always to send the hero/heroine into trouble, usually of his/her own making. The unlikely pairing of the heroine to her impossible desire, or the hero to the impossible change he must make, is what sends the story on its journey.

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