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.

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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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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.

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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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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.

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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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