3 More Outlining Methods That Help Your Novel Along

Yesterday we touched upon four outlining methods for your novel. I decided to split the post up because there are three more ways to outline.

These are the ways I outline my own novel.

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Summary

This method is pretty straight forward. You write a basic synopsis for your novel. Play around with various summaries for your story.

Write a one-sentence summary. Write a paragraph summary. Write a whole page summarizing the novel.

Summarizing gives you a good idea about what you want the point of the story to be and allow you to think about how you want to get there.

Of course, it’s sometimes easier to write a summary for your story after you’ve finished the novel. So take this one as you will.

How I use this method:

Similar to the free writing from yesterday’s post, I tend to babble out the beginning, middle, and end of my story. I actually haven’t used this method in a long time, but I used to find it helpful because it allowed me to figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Flashlight Outline

This one is pretty similar to summarizing your novel. Flashlight outline is summarizing each chapter. “In chapter one, this will happen. In chapter two, that will happen.”

You summarize each chapter without the minor details and description. This one is great so you don’t end a chapter and have to ask, “now what?” You know what you want to accomplish in each chapter and you know how to get from one idea to the next.

How I use this method:

The flashlight method is something I’ve always used, even way back when I first started writing fan fiction. And I just found out that this method has an actual name!

I use this method now before I begin any novel writing. I write a summary of each chapter, some being a paragraph long, others being a page or two depending on my thought process that day. It helps me to know what’s going to happen next and why it happens. Do I always follow it? No, but it’s a good guideline.

Scene Map

Instead of planning out each chapter, plan out each scene. It seems like a little more work, but you get a little more out of it over the chapter summary. More detail is added and you can figure out what you want to happen when. It’s easier to move around a scene from one chapter to the next rather than reworking an entire chapter.

How I use this method:

In addition to the flashlight method, I currently use the scene map. I used to do the scene map before I began writing, but now I outline a bit different.

I flashlight before writing and I use the scene map during my writing. I outline first and then outline a little deeper as I write the story.

The scene map helps me know what I wrote and when (I include the page numbers). This helps me refer back if I forget something so I don’t have to go scrolling through pages upon pages of text. It’s always easier to move scenes around in the editing process.

I use sticky notes in a notebook so they’re easy to pick up and rearrange if need be. I also have a back page dedicated to “deleted scenes.”

I think this method, along with the flashlight, is the way to go. It is for me, anyway.

Do you use any of these methods? Or do you outline in a different way? Or not at all? Let me know in the comments below!

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4 Easy Outlining Methods: Find What Works Best For You

Outlining is hard. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re working on, outlining your novel is a tricky thing. Sure, it may help you in the long run, but it still requires time and thinking.

There are many different ways to outline a novel and you need to choose what works best with your line of thinking. Or, you can outline different novels in different ways. Like I said, it’s all up to you.

To ensure this post isn’t too long, I’ll be talking about four outlining methods today. I’ll have three more for you guys tomorrow.

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The Snowflake Method

I remember my teachers talking about this method in school when we had to outline our essays. It was never anything that I truly understood (for whatever reason) and I never enjoyed using this method.

With that said, the snowflake method is pretty simple. Snowflakes are complex, no two ever look alike. The idea behind this method is to slowly expand upon your idea and your plot.

You start with one idea, write it down. Then you add on to that idea bit by bit slowly developing the plot and getting new ideas and a new understanding for your own novel.

It’s easy, it’s careful planning, and it takes time.

The Skeletal Outline

Exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. I’m sure you all recognize this one from school.

This is the basic outline of your plot. The beginning, middle, and end in a nutshell. You show what’s going to happen and when.

You’ll know the basic gist of your novel leaving plenty of wiggle room to add in things as you write.

Contextual Outline

This type of outline isn’t so much about the plot, but about the mechanics of your novel.

If you’re writing a Harry Potter type story, you need to make sure you have a good understanding of your magic system. Otherwise nothing you write is going to make any sense.

Make a list of spells, what they mean, how they’re pronounced. Are some spells are going to be more important than others (the three killing curses, for example)? What are the rules of the magic? Do you need a wand or can you just flick your wrist?

That’s just an example. Contextual outlining builds your world, the general rules of your novel, characters, and everything in between. Just not necessarily your plot, which you may just wing it.

Free Writing

Sure you can free write your novel without having to outline anything. Or you can free write your outline.

Free writing your outline means you just babble on and on about your novel and plot. “This is going to happen to Character A and then Character B will come along and do this. After that, Character B will die, but Character A will end up prevailing and save the world.”

You’re more or less writing the story without the major details. You’re just getting the bare bones down on paper to make sure you don’t forget any ideas.

You can also write certain scenes and lines that you’ve thought of and you want to go into the novel at some point.

In conclusion…

As I said, there are many ways to outline and novel. I have seven different ways (three of which we’ll talk about tomorrow since those are the methods I use), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other methods out there.

Everyone works differently.

Do you outline your novels in any of these four ways? Or do you use a different method? Let me know in the comments below!

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Is Outlining A Good Idea?

If you know me, then you know that I love to outline before I write any of my novels. But outlining isn’t for everyone.

But how do you figure out if outlining works for you or not? Well, you just have to use trial and error. Outline and story and see how it goes for you.

To save you a little bit of time, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for you.

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PROS

You won’t get stuck.

If you outline your novel you’ll always know where to go next. You won’t write a scene and say to yourself, “now what?” The goal for your characters has been clearly set and you can keep moving right along. Also, if you stop writing for a day or two, it’ll be easy to pick up right where you left off.

Plotholes should be easier to find.

Have you ever written something and then realized it doesn’t match up with what you had written in the first book or even in the first chapter? Outlining and keeping notes will help you keep tabs on everything and everyone in the book. Hopefully, you won’t write yourself into a hole. Don’t be bringing back dead characters… well, unless the rules of your story allow it.

Character development will be easier.

If you outline, you’ll need to plan your characters’ growth throughout the story. Your protagonist will be at one place in the beginning and will change throughout and be different by the end. Or they should anyway. By outlining the scenes and plot points, you’ll map out all your characters’ growth making it easier to make them more realistic and get from point A to point B.

CONS

Takes away some creativity.

An outline is more like a guideline. You don’t have to follow it, but some people find it easier to follow it as it is. If that’s the case, then outlining can take away some spontaneity in your writing. Sometimes our characters want to do something a certain way, but if the outline says otherwise… well, you should listen to the characters. But everyone has a different opinion on that.

The story may be too short having to add on words later.

When it comes to outlining, it’s very easy to get from the beginning of the story to the end right away. Certain description and fun filler dialogue may not be added because you’re focusing too much on following your outline. The scenes may come out a lot shorter than they would have if you winged it.

It’s an extra step.

When it comes to writing a novel, the first draft especially, most people just like to get it done. First drafts are always crap, the real writing doesn’t begin until you begin the edits. I find that outlines take away some steps from the editing process, but some people find it easier to just write that first draft as fast as they can to get straight to the edits.

Whether you should outline or not can depend on two things:

1. Your personality and how you write
2. The project you’re working on

Whether you’re organized or not, outlining may be perfect for you. If you’re writing a mystery novel, outlining may be the way to go. If you’re writing an adventure novel, then winging it may seem best. It’s all up to you… and up to your characters, really.

Do you usually outline your novels? Or do you like to wing it? Let me know in the comments below!

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