3 Elements To Include In Your Novel Outline

There are many things to include in a novel outline. Some writers don’t outline at all and some only outline a little bit. However, there are certain elements to include in your novel outline in order to have a thorough one.

There are five elements that go into writing a novel. Some of these elements should be included in your novel outline as a base. You can do this before you start writing and then add in all the filler and details later.

3 Elements to Include in Your Novel Outline | Creative writing | novel writing | writing tips | blogging | RachelPoli.com

1. Premise

This is the big idea of the whole novel. What’s the plot? Why is it important? What’s the protagonist’s objective? What’s the antagonist’s or villain’s objective? Conflict? There’s a lot that goes into the basic plot. All you need are some ideas for why this story needs to be told. Why will readers want to pick it up and keep reading?

2. Characters

Jot down a bare list of characters and get to know them a little bit. List the main character, the bad guys, secondary and minor characters, sidekicks, and everyone in between. Some characters may not exist yet, but it’s nice to have a list to keep track of names and physical descriptions.

3. Setting

Where does your novel take place? Where are your characters from? What are some locations your characters may visit throughout the events of the novel?

There are a lot more that should go into your novel. Major and minor plot points, scene ideas, and a lot more. However, these three elements are the basic gist of your novel. Once you figure this out, writing should – hopefully – be smooth sailing.

What are some major points you include in your novel outline? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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The Downside Of Outlining Your Novel

When it comes to any stage of the creative writing process, there’s always some pros and cons to it. Not all writing is glamorous and it sounds more exciting than it really is at times. Outlining is a step some people skip and one that everyone does differently. So, here’s the downside of outlining your novel.

The Downside to Outlining Your Novel | Creative writing | outlining your novel | novel writing | blogging | RachelPoli.com

Before the First Draft

When I outline before the first draft, I feel a certain thrill for my novel. I’m excited, the ideas are brand new and fresh. I can’t wait to get to know my characters and explore a new world I’ve created.

If I get any new ideas, I have to write it down otherwise I’ll forget. Sometimes I write details that I believe the event might occur but other times I just write the basic idea down and call it day.

So, when the outline is over and it’s time to write the first draft, there’s one of two things that might happen:

1. I write the first draft without a problem.

Obviously, this is the best way to go. The outline guides me as it’s supposed to. Some ideas stay the same, some change. New characters are added and so on and so forth. This is the ideal way I’d love for all my novels to go.

But it doesn’t always happen that way.

2. The thrill is gone.

There have been times where I’ve outlined and then, when it comes time to write the first draft, I have no more motivation to write the story anymore.

Why?

Because I more or less already wrote it. Sometimes I write so many details into the outline, or I’ve worked on it for so long that the idea has been cooking for a while, that when I start the first draft I feel like I already wrote it.

This makes the process of writing the first draft slow. I wish that it was already written and I could just get started on the editing process. There’s a lot more detail and description that has to go into the first draft though.

I love outlining but there have been times where it’s been more work than I meant it to be. Sometimes, even if you outline all the time, it’s best not to outline and just wing the project. Everyone works differently but also I think every project needs to be tackled with its own unique approach.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you put yourself in a writing slump before? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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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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Outlining A Novel During Camp NaNoWriMo

This month I’ve been working on a lot of various projects. Camp NaNo is so flexible that some people write novels, short stories, poetry, or even edit their work.

I don’t know if anyone has ever attempted to outline a project during Camp so they could work on the writing part when the month was over. Well, that’s one of the things I’ve been doing and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it.

Outlining A Novel During Camp NaNoWriMo | Creative Writing | Novel Outlines | RachelPoli.com

It’s no secret that I enjoy outlining my novels. I like to be organized and have some sort of idea where the story may go, even though I know the outline isn’t set in stone.

Usually when I outline I summarize how each chapter would go. I make up scenes along the way, some may stay, some won’t. But I end up with a clear beginning and end at the very least. I also have a basic idea of how long the novel may be.

I’m not doing that this time.

I’m outlining Brave, my next Wattpad story. (Take Over was published yesterday, so go check it out!) It’s a fantasy that I attempted writing before. It was originally a Short Story Sunday I decided to expand upon.

I didn’t get far in it because I had a lot of world building to do. So, that’s how I’ve been doing my outline.

I created a list of characters, wrote the basic gist of the plot, and then I got to work on the make-believe stuff. I created the Kingdoms, towns within them, and jobs that the people can have. I haven’t gotten this far yet, but I need to create a list of routes, forests, lakes, and other places that are within the world the characters may come across on their journey.

Dragons are a huge part of the world and I’ve spent a good amount of time creating different species and coming up with their names. I’ve come up with them on my own though some are based off “real” dragons.

Lastly, when that’s all done, I’ll be summarizing the plot points. I don’t want to summarize each chapter like I have done in the past, but I’m going to list the plot points that keep the characters moving forward. What makes them go on the journey, major dangers they face on the way, finding what they’re looking for, then the final battle.

Honestly, that’s pretty much the gist of the story.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with it and I’m looking forward to starting writing it next month.

Have you ever worked on an outline during Camp for your current project or the next one? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Should You Outline Short Stories?

How many times have I talked about outlining on this blog? Too many to count most likely.

I personally love outlining. I’m a super organized person in real life and a tad OCD about things. That goes the same for my novels.

Outlining isn’t for everyone, but it can be used as a means for editing. That’s why I’m asking this question…

Should you outline short stories?

When I outline my novels, I make a list of characters, a list of plot points, summarize each chapter, and then bullet scene by scene. I also make a list of editing points as I write the first draft.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never outlined a short story before. When I write short stories, I tend to base them off a writing prompt I found somewhere on the Internet or I’ve created myself. Then I just start to write and somehow I end up with a short story.

Then the editing comes along and then… what?

There’s a short story I wrote a long time ago. It was for one of my creative writing classes in college. (I’ve been out of college for two and a half years, so… it’s been a while.)

Since writing it, I’ve edited it, and edited it, and edited it. I’ve submitted it to contests and magazines, but haven’t gotten anywhere with it. Still, I’m not giving up on it. In fact, I’m waiting to hear back from a magazine about it at the time of writing this post.

I submitted it to another place this past August. That story I sent in was the seventh draft. Yes, 7.

It’s grown a lot in the past few years. Did I outline it when I first wrote it? No. Did I outline it when editing? Yes.

Why bother outlining a short story… especially when it’s already been written?

Like I said, I love outlining. But I don’t outline my short stories because I just tend to roll with it. I have noticed that outlining the story after it’s written can be a huge help to editing.

I’ve been saying it a lot this week and that’s to keep your short stories simple and to the point. Only add in important aspects about the plot. Give detail, but not filler.

Outlining your short story is prep for the editing process.

  • What’s important?
  • What drives the plot forward?
  • What can I afford to cut out, if needed?

Create a list of characters and write down their purpose. Are they all needed?

Bullet-list each scene and briefly summarize what happens. Is each scene important and paying its rent to the plot? Do some scenes have too much information or not enough? If not enough, is it really needed?

I did this for my short story and gave it one last edit before shipping it off to my writer’s group a few months ago. A car accident happens in the story and everyone agreed that I had put too much detail into that scene.

They said that when you get into a car accident (to the extent in the story), you’re not looking at your surroundings describing the scenery. Especially not if you have big injuries.

Looking at their feedback and then looking at my outline, I was able to easily pinpoint and judge what was too much in that scene. I cut a lot of it out and rewrote what remained. Reading the story now, I agree that it’s much better and flows nicely. Plus, the less description added more tension.

So, should you outline your short stories?

It’s still up to you, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. I know everyone works differently, but this has helped me.

Maybe it’ll help you too.

Do you outline your short stories? Do you outline any of your writing? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Why I Outline As I Write

Most people outline before they being writing their novel.

If we learned anything last week, it’s that we can outline before, during, and after we write the novel.

This isn’t something I realized I could do until recently, though. I always thought I had to outline before I started writing. Last year for Camp NaNo I didn’t finish my outline in time and ended up outlining as I wrote the novel.

why-i-outline-as-i-write

After spending the time before the writing process to outline and adding additional writing time to outline some more as I put words to paper, I discovered a brand new world and realized that I had been outlining all wrong.

I mean, for me, anyway.

I used to outline each scene, picking out plot points and important things here and there before I began to write. Then as I wrote, I tried my best to stick to it. Of course, outlines always change and characters have a mind of their own and decide to change course without telling you.

So, as I wrote my novel I stuck with the guideline, changing it as I saw fit. I added to it when I wrote new things, rearranging the scenes, and taking some away. In the end, it was a pretty big mess. I found myself working more on the outline than the actual novel. I was spending more time trying to figure out what I was trying to say rather than just saying it.

For the next novel, I decided to outline differently. I summarized each chapter before writing as well as made a list of characters, plot points I hoped to get across, settings, and more. I realized summarizing the chapters would allow me more wiggle room rather than practically writing the story scene by scene, just minus the extra details and words.

Then I started writing.

As I wrote, I realized something else. Why can’t I map out each scene like I had before as I wrote? By the time I get to the editing stage, the scene map would be more accurate than the chapter summary allowing me to find certain points easier and understand more of what’s going on, what to edit, and how to edit.

In the end, I have a list of characters, settings, and more, alongside a rough summary of each chapter, and then an accurate map of each and every scene.

It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually not that bad at all. My mind works in strange ways and it helps.

So, that’s why I outline before and during the writing process. Will this work for you? I don’t know, but feel free to give it a shot. It can’t hurt.

How do you typically outline? Do you outline as you write, too? Let me know in the comments below!

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