The Sticky-Note Method For Outlining A Novel

There are a lot of different outlining methods. Some people use lists, others use templates they create or find on the Internet, or there are methods floating around such as the Snowflake Method. I’ve never really outlined in those kinds of ways. I’ve always summarized or made lists. You know, the basics of the story. I recently started outlining scene by scene, especially now that I’ve been outlining as I write the first draft. So, here’s the sticky note outlining method that I use.

The Sticky Note Outlining Method | Novel writing | creative writing | outlines | novel outlining | RachelPoli.com

I’ve always loved office supplies, especially Post-It Notes, or sticky notes as I like to call them. I started to use them for a novels a long time ago. I’d make notes to myself within my manuscripts as I edited and stuck them in between pages. Well, I still do that, but I actually do it less now that I use them for outlining. Now I use each sticky note as a scene or an important event such as a plot point or special time.

Where I Put The Sticky Notes

I started using this method during my second or third time editing my mystery novel, George Florence & The Perfect Alibi. I placed the sticky notes 3-by-4 on each page. I filled in the notes as scenes in chronological order of what was happening in the novel. I did this for a while and filled up a notebook doing so, but then I decided I was kind of wasting good notebook paper.

While it was great to have the sticky notes together in a notebook that could close and keep them sticking and flat, I decided I’d rather use my notebooks for writing. So, now I use this method in a different way.

Instead of leaving the house to buy a poster, I taped a few card stock pieces of paper together and made my own poster – best part about this “poster?” It folds! So it works similar to the notebook in keeping the sticky notes together and portable, but I can also hang it up on the wall and work on it as I go while still sitting at my desk.

Why Sticky Notes?

They are so easy to move. You don’t know how many times I’ve written something down and then needed to change it. The only time I like to use pencil is if I’m drawing. So, I always use pen when writing or outlining. Then I need to scribble something out if I make a mistake or change something.

The sticky notes allow me to pick up the scene and either move it to a different spot or put it on a separate sheet of paper. I never throw away the sticky notes because even though I may not use it at that moment, I could very well need it later. I don’t want to forget any ideas no matter how good or bad, old or new.

I Love This Method

Sticky notes make things so much easier. As I said, I can easily move them around from draft to draft, see things all at once together in one big sheet of paper rather than flipping through pages of lists and ideas, and it’s really colorful. Sticky notes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They’re a lot of fun and brings your project to a new light.

Do you use this method at all? How do you tackle outlining your novels? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!

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The One Reason I Outline As I Write The First Draft

When I first started writing I always thought that you needed to outline before you began writing the first draft. That’s what I was taught in school, after all. I always had to brainstorm and write an outline to pass into the teacher before handing in the first draft of the essay. Most often than not, I’d write the essay and then write an outline based off what I wrote and passed them in respectively when they were due. My teachers never suspected a thing. Still, I always outlined my novels before writing – until recently that is. Here’s the one reason I outline as I write the first draft.

The One Reason I Outline As I Write The First Draft | Novel outlines | outlining your novel | creative writing | blogging | RachelPoli.com

There used to be a lot of steps I’d take in order to get through a couple of drafts of my novel. Why? Because I had to take notes. Notes meant an updated outline.

In other words, I would outline, write the first draft, then as I edited the first draft I’d outline again updating the original outline with anything that changed or was out of order than I originally intended. I would do this for every draft as well.

The reason I did this was because it became easier for me to edit if I have a solid outline or even a table of contents so I didn’t have to scroll through the whole manuscript to find that one certain scene.

Then I decided to cut out a step here and there. Now I outline as I write the first draft.

It keeps my first draft together.

Sometimes I’ll do research and make a list of characters and such before I begin writing but now I outline as I go along and write the first draft.

Not only does this make the editing process easier since I have that guideline, but it also helps as I write the first draft because if I need to stop writing for the night, I can always look at the outline the next day to remember where I left off and keep going without any hiccups.

This keeps my first draft together and allows me to brainstorm new ideas, expand on existing ideas, and get going on that first draft quicker. I’ll write a scene and then when the chapter is over, I’ll make a note of it in my outline. It reminds me of what happened (yes, even if I wrote it five minutes ago) and allows me to ponder on it more. Sometimes I don’t think of what could happen next until I write a summarized version of what’s already happened.

For me personally, I think outlining while I write the first draft works the best. I remember most of what’s going on in my own story and it keeps me organized which is what I like best.

When do you outline, if you outline at all? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!

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Why I Love Outlining My Novels

If you know me then you know that I enjoy the outlining process. I’m sure I’ve talked about it before, but I thought I’d do a post about why I love outlining my novels.

Why I Love Outlining My Novels | Outlines | novel writing | creative writing | blogging | RachelPoli.com

There are many different reasons why I love outlining my novels, but there’s one in particular that really makes me happy.

It keeps me organized.

Again, if you know me then you know that I’m a very organized person. I enjoy having a schedule or routine to follow. I enjoy cleaning and I love having a designated spot for everything. This goes for my writing as well.

I love outlining my novels because it keeps me organized – the novel itself and my thoughts. Outlining gives me a spot for a list of characters, locations, plot points, dialogue ideas, and everything in between.

My favorite part about outlining is that it helps me organize the general structure of the novel. Sometimes I summarize each chapter in a notebook, other times I use sticky-notes and index cards to plot the novel scene by scene, plot point by plot point.

There’s no right or wrong way to write a novel – we all work in our own way and at our own pace. For me, however, staying organized with your novel is key to completing that first draft, editing, and beyond. Staying organized in the beginning really makes things easier in the long run.

How do I stay organized?

I break my novels up into the stages of the creative writing process. I have a notebook for research and general notes plus a poster. (Or sometimes I just tape card stock together because who really wants to leave the house and go to the store?) Sometimes I’ll have an Excel sheet or Word document filled with bullet points and charts, but I’m old school. I like having pen and paper.

My first draft is written on the computer as if all the other drafts. I have an accordion folder to hold all the drafts as well as file folder to hold onto the current draft I’m on because I always hand edit.

I’ll admit, it doesn’t always look so pretty. I do have to organize and re-organize now and again. Still, it helps me and it looks nice inside the filing cabinet and on my shelves.

Long story short, outlining helps my novel itself stay organized. I mean, the outline is more like a guideline and changes a lot, but it still helps a lot.

Are you generally organized? Do you enjoy outlining your novels? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Two Purposes Outlining Your Novel Serves

Outlining is a hit or miss for some people. Some find it helpful while others think of it as an unnecessary step. Why plan when you can just jump right into the writing? Everyone works differently and there’s no wrong way to write your own novel. I personally find outlining super helpful. The way I see it, there are two purposes outlining your novel serves.

Two Purposes Outlining Your Novel Serves | Outlining a novel | novel writing | creative writing | writing tips | Writing Blog | RachelPoli.com

1. Before: Ideas

Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, we all get stuck on our writing now and again. You can get stuck on any part of the creative writing process – you may struggle with ideas, the middle of your story, a certain character might give you trouble… there’s a lot of baggage that comes with writing a novel.

This is going to sound obvious, but one thing that the outline really helps with is ideas for your novel. If you outline before, ideas tend to come easier. At least, they do for me.

Outlining is kind of like a brainstorming session. Sometimes I’ll outline by summarizing what may happen in each chapter. I’ll think of something to happen in chapter three and then that particular thing will spiral into another idea or another action or thought for one of the characters. This may happen for chapter four or chapter 12. The possibilities are endless.

Of course, ideas spark as you write the first draft as well, but I also felt as though outlining gave you more ideas to play around for the first draft. That’s the great thing about ideas – they change and they improve.

2. After: Editing

Editing has always been difficult for me and it can seem like such a chore. Outlining beforehand has always helped me with the editing process later.

Having an outline while I edit is great because if I need to take a look at a certain part of the novel or forget when something happens, I can turn to my outline. I use to spend a long time scrolling up and down, pressing CTRL+F in my document, and scanning all the written words for one particular sentence or scene. With an outline, it’s easy for me to look it up that way. In a way, an outline is kind of like an index of my novel. I jot down notes and summaries as I write each chapter. It works for me.

All in all, outlines do a lot. They don’t work with everyone, but I do think there are many different ways to go about a outline. Something will work for everyone.

Do you agree with me? Are there any other reasons outlines work for you? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Using Research As Your Novel Outline

I’ll be honest – there haven’t been too many people I’ve come across who outline before writing the first draft of their novel. Outlining isn’t everyone’s favorite thing to do in the world. I personally love it, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

Research, on the other hand, is something that people do quite often and at during multiple stages of the writing process. If I have an idea of what information I need to know, I always spend a good amount of time researching before writing. Using research as your novel outline is a great way to outline without “spoiling” the novel for yourself.

Using Research as Your Novel Outline | Creative writing | Blogging | Outlining a novel | novel writing | research for a novel | RachelPoli.com

A lot of research goes into novel writing. Despite it being fiction, we as writers try to make things as realistic as possible. We want it to be real for our readers. Researching is the way to do that and there are many different things we can research in outline form to set up for our first draft.

Setting & Time Period

Setting is easy and hard. If you’re writing about a place you’ve been to before, it comes somewhat easily. If you decide to base your novel in a foreign place unknown to you, then you need to research. This may include traveling to that place, jotting down ideas, taking pictures, and the like. I mean, why not make a vacation out of it?

Unless you were born in the 50s, you have no idea what it was like to live in the 50s. School was different back then, they dressed differently, and there are even different slang terms than we have now. This is research you need to do in order to make your characters authentic.

Characters

Speaking of characters, people were named differently back then as well. Certain names are more common in certain generations. Do you necessarily need to follow that? No, not really, but sometimes it’s helpful to know. We all have different “roles” as well. Yes, everyone should be treated equally, but maybe in your novel they’re not.

How To…

How many of you out there are writing about war or have frequent battle scenes? Do you know what it’s like to wield a sword? Do you know any fighting stances or techniques? Researching this before you write your novel will help the first draft go smoother when you get to those scenes. It’ll still need editing for sure, but less so in the long run.

Then there’s horseback riding, how to sew on a button, how to murder someone, and so much more. We can write about what we know and what we have experience with, but it’s more fun to write about what we don’t know and experience it first-hand through research.

So, whether you outline or not, doing a little bit of research beforehand is always a good way to go. Unless you want to completely wing and make stuff up… that’s cool too.

Do you research at all? If so, do you do some before the writing begins? Let me know in the comments below. Good luck! If you liked this post, please share it around!

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