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.

3-more-outlining-methods

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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Outlining Effectively (Part Two)

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Iridescence. Thanks, Iridescence!

You can read Part One of this post HERE.

In part one, I discussed about outlining tips for writers whose focus is their plot. In this post, I will be mentioning some outlining suggestions for writers who focus on their characters.

Tip 1

In the beginning, you might worry about starting with your characters and not your plot and how they will tie together seamlessly. Don’t think too much into your plot. You will figure it out as you go. Pick up your pen or your laptop and just begin.

But when you are outlining your characters, make sure to outline individual background stories as well. How two characters are related, how some characters will meet etc. Just those main scenes which you have in your mind. Note it down along with your character’s personality outline.

Tip 2

As I mentioned for the previous set of tips, I recommend outlining by hand more than in Word or software. Differentiating facts into sections will be a little time-consuming in Word and it wouldn’t offer much flexibility as well.

You might argue that it will be easier in a software such as Scrivener. When I used it for a trial period, I noticed that although it has several features to make outlining easier, it just isn’t the same as noting by hand on paper. It doesn’t offer that unlimited amount of flexibility. It also does not offer you a lot of information at one glance.

Also, in software, you will want to complete one section of traits before beginning any other. For example, you would want to get down all the physical traits before moving on to relationships or the past. You will not have that constriction in paper as you can just draw a line dividing the page and continue.

Tip 3

When writing/outlining a story and it’s characters, your mind will be cluttered and it will throw out ideas very fast. When outlining characters, you might think about his/her past and also a future scene at the same time.

DON’T write down one and plan to get the other down later, you might forget. Don’t be hesitant to cram notes in margins or divide sections of the paper without any planning. This is only the first attempt. Let it be messy, get it all down.

Tip 4

Use as many or as less sheets as you want. Don’t worry about it all being in only one page or being separate and orderly.Also when you want to scrap an idea, neatly strike it out once. The reason for this is the same as Tip 2 for plot-focused outliners above.

Tip 5

When you are done, don’t just accept it and leave it. Reread through the messiness and re-write everything you are going ahead with in a somewhat orderly fashion as final character spread. Also, save all your old sheets in case you want to refer back later.

Here is an example of a final character outline page (of just the basics):

Example

Do you focus on your plot or your characters? What do you think of these tips and can you think of some more?

About Iridescence:

Iridescence is an 18-year-old Indian girl studying engineering and dreaming stories. Other than reading, she loves to colour code, make notes and plan everything, Snapchat a lot and is a proud INFJ.

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Outlining Effectively (Part One)

Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.

This week’s guest post is brought to you by Iridescence. Thanks, Iridescence!

If you’re starting to write a story, no matter for a book or not, what do you think of first—the plot or the your characters? This two-part tips posts will be discussing for both the answers.

Points in this post are more relevant to those who focus more on their plot.

Note: These tips would work best for plotters.

Tip 1

Some people like plotting their story in ink and others prefer to type. Either way, I suggest plotting at least some of your story in paper. Have a pen and notebook with you always and jot down everything in bullet points. Bullet points make everything look neater, shorter, and more precise. Writing paragraphs would feel too tedious, especially when you are just outlining, and this is the reason most lean towards typing. Bullet points will also prove easier when you are referring back later as you won’t have to read the whole paragraph for one small fact. You can get it in one glance.

Also, don’t take too long writing down as it might interrupt your flow of the plot. The mind works too fast and writing in abbreviations and short forms can help get a lot down. Just make sure you can understand what you’ve written later.

Tip 2

When you want to change something, don’t scratch or scribble over it. Strike it out neatly and write down the new idea. One, this will make the page look cleaner and still appealing. Two, if later, while writing your story something doesn’t add up or match and you want to refer back to old ideas, you can clearly read what you’ve stricken out but it would be hard to make out what is under the scribble. Writing in hand saves your trashed ideas too which might actually be helpful later. In software, it would be lost.

Tip 3

You can work out jotting down points for future scenes or relevant info in 3 ways:

  1. Write down points elsewhere as you are plotting, even if it is in the middle of a paragraph.
  2. Outline one chapter and reread, writing down any new points and ideas only then and not letting it interrupt your flow in the middle.
  3. Only when you are done outlining for the day, take 10-15 minutes to reread and write down points and notes. Not caring whether you’ve written 2 pages or 2 chapters that day.

Tip 4

When you are done with some amount of plot outlining and are not in the mood for any more, never worry that you’re wasting time. Reread your outline and compare all of them together, figuring out the mismatches. Note down any changes and smooth out differences. This will help in solidifying your outline and also get your brain thinking again.

Do you focus on your plot first or your characters? What do you think of these tips and can you think of any others?