5 More Outlining Methods For Your Novel

Yesterday I listed five different outlining methods for your novel. Today, I have more.

5 More Outlining Methods for your novels | creative writing | novel outlines | novel prep | RachelPoli.com

Snowflake Method

This is also known as the expanding method. You begin with an idea and simple expand on it. It’s easier said than done, but if you have ideas, it’ll fill itself in.

I personally have never used this method but I know you can go about this one two different ways. You can start at the beginning and expand upon how the story starts – getting from point A to point B. Or you can start at the end and work your way backwards if you’re unsure how to get to the end. What events could lead to the end?

Contextual

This is a slightly different kind of outline in which you don’t necessarily focus on the plot and the events leading to it, but the mechanics of the story. This means if you’re writing a story with magic in it, be sure to have your magic system worked out. This could also be different languages, cultures, and the like.

Skeletal

This is a popular outline for academic papers. I’m sure most, if not all, of you have heard of this and used it for essays in school. This is an outline that focuses on the core points of your plot. This includes the exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This outlines your plot in detail breaking it up into different sections.

Visual Map

This is a fun method. You can create charts, maps, or timelines. I love using a web diagram to write one idea in the middle and then expand around it, expanding on those other ideas in the process. I mostly use that kind of map for the setting and various locations.

I’ll write the main setting in the middle and then list all the places my characters go around it. I’ll write why they go to each location in their own bubbles as well. That’s the best way this kind of outline has worked for me; especially since setting is something I personally lack at when it comes to writing.

Free Writing

Writing the first draft can be a kind of outline. We all know the first drafts aren’t going to be published. They’re guidelines for the second draft and so on. However, as you write the first draft, it doesn’t hurt to keep a list of notes. Plot ideas, characters, and even notes for editing down the road. Even if you keep a list of scenes, it’ll be easier in the long run to keep track of. Sometimes writing the actual novel is the best outline because everything is already in place and all you need to do is just move things around and look at your notes.

Do you have any other methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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5 Outlining Methods For Novels

There are so many different ways to outline your novel and everyone takes a different approach to the task. Outlining can be daunting to some while some writers look forward to the process. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell which method you should use on your particular novel. Here are 5 outlining methods for novels.

5 Outlining Methods for novels | creative writing | outlining a novel | novel outlines | blogging | RachelPoli.com

Brainstorming

Also known as the traditional method of outlining, brainstorming allows you to sit and really think about what’s going to happen in your novel. You can divide your novel into sections and decide what will happen when. It will help organize the structure of your novel. You can use index cards, notebook paper, or post-it notes to work out each chapter or scene or however you decide to divide it up.

From there, you can either begin writing your first draft or move onto a different outlining method.

The Synopsis

This is exactly what it sounds like. Summarize your novel. Give your novel that blurb you find on the back of books. Who are the characters and what are their goals? What’s the big idea of the story? This will give you the big picture of your novel. You can use this as an outline alone or tag it onto a different outline method.

Flashlight Method

I did not make up the name to this method but I wish I did. This is another summarizing outlining method but instead of the novel as a whole, it’s each individual chapter. Get a notebook and start with chapter one (or the prologue) and write a summary about what will happen, characters who will be introduced, any conflicts that will be shared, and all the more. Then move onto chapter two and keep going until the whole novel is done.

I personally love this method because I don’t usually get stuck. As I write the summary to one chapter I get ideas for what could happen in later chapters. I take notes and then work them all in. This method doesn’t always stick though, like more outlines. It’s just a guideline and there’s plenty of room to change and grow as you write the first draft.

Scene Map

This one is more or less the same as the flashlight method except you’re working with scenes rather than summarizing whole chapters (or the whole novel). The may be a little more work than summarizing each chapter. Multiple scenes can happen in one chapter and this narrows things down a bit more.

List or Bullet Points

Sometimes I feel like it’s easier just to make a list. I’m not even sure if this is a “legit” method with a cool name, but I do it a lot and it works for me.

I’ll divide the novel up into the parts that make it up – characters, plot points, locations, etc. For my mystery novels this also includes evidence, clues, witness statements, and the like. For characters especially, I’ll make a list of their names and basic information. I might also write a little blurb about what they contribute to the plot and story as a whole. This lays everything out for me and makes it easier when I write and I need to look up how I spelled a certain name or something.

Do you use some of these methods? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Outline A Series

It can be hard enough to outline a single book but when it comes to writing a book series, it’s even harder. You can outline each book individually or you can outline the series as a whole. Depending on the length of the series and its genre you can choose what would work best for the project and you. So, here’s how to outline a series.

How To Outline A Series | Creative writing | writing | novel writing | outline | novel outline | RachelPoli.com

What’s the main idea?

Each book has its own main idea, central plot point, or theme. When it comes to outlining your series, you can list the main ideas for each book as well as the series as a whole. What’s the point of each book in the series and why do we need many books to get to the end of the major plot? What’s going to happen from point A to point B to keep readers buying the next book in the series?

Brainstorm these plot points

If you’re going to outline the series as a whole rather than each individual book as you write them, make a list of plot points that should happen from the beginning of book one to the end of the final book. This will help move the plot along and stretch it out for as long as the series needs to be. This will also help give you a rough idea of how many books you may need.

Summarize each book

Even though the books in the series will work together to get to a common end, each book should still have it’s own goal and plot points to be wrapped up at the end of each book. Summarizing each individual plot as well as the overall picture of the series will help keep you and the series organized. It gives each book more of a purpose and makes it more fun and entertaining.

Create a timeline

One way to help summarize each book and/or the series is to create a timeline. I’ve done that for my mystery series and it’s helped a lot. It helps keep track of the evidence and details of each case as well as dates and just the general “what happens when.” Creating a timeline is easier than it seems – well, it’s hard only if you don’t know all the information you want to fill in. There’s no wrong way to create a timeline though, which is great.

Do you outline your series as a whole or not? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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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 To 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 to 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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