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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I go back and forth with my outlining process. Sometimes I outline before but sometimes I outline during. I used to always summarize what I wanted to happen in each chapter and then it would change during the writing process of the first draft.
Now I usually outline just the basics. Plot points I’d like to happen, random ideas, a list of characters and places, and the like. While I write my first draft, I summarize each chapter. This makes the editing process so much easier for me in the long run.
I give myself about a month to write the first draft. This is all thanks to NaNoWriMo. Some people don’t agree with it, but I believe that the first draft is just you telling yourself the story. If it’s a bunch of gibberish, at least you got the bare bones down. So I typically spend about 30 days writing 2,000 words a day to get the first draft done. Then the real writing begins.
I’ll admit… until I just did the research for this month’s blog posts, I though revision and editing were one in the same. So I guess I should take a look at how I do things.
Still, I’ve gotten into a good routine with my editing. I’ve been using the rainbow editing method for the last few drafts of my various manuscripts and it’s been working really well for me. It helps me zero-in on certain aspects I need to focus on. Editing is not as difficult as it used to be for me.
When it comes to writing a lot of us just sit down and writing. Sometimes we think first, but for the most part we just go through the motions of writing a book.
But what are those motions?
There’s a thing called a creative writing process that we all follow whether we realize it or not.
Right off the bat, the first step of the creative writing process is optional. Some people would better this way, others don’t. Sometimes people do only half of step one and other people do it at a different time during the writing process of their novel.
Needless to say, this whole post can be kind of moot depending on your writing style. But whatever, here we go…
Brainstorming. Prewriting. Outlining.
Whatever you want to call it, the first step is the basic idea of the novel. Technically, those three terms can mean different things, but hey – we all write our novels differently and in our own unique styles. So I’m counting this.
Brainstormingis producing ideas. You can list ideas for many different stories or ideas for events to happen in one story. These are simple ideas of things that could happen in your novel. It doesn’t mean it will actually come to fruition.
Prewriting and Outlining are similar. They sound exactly like their name – before you begin the actual first draft of your novel, you get the basic skeleton of the story down on paper. This can be as simple as filling out a few character charts or creating a mind map of major and minor plot events of the story. Sometimes it can be as in-depth as summarizing each chapter or bullet-listing chapters, characters, and ideas.
I guess it’s kind of like writing the first draft without all the filler stuff.
I personally enjoy outlining before writing the first draft. It helps me keep my thoughts organized. However, not everyone can work like that. So this step can often be skipped. Or, as I said earlier, this step may happen at another point in the creative writing process. I’ve outlined during writing the first draft a few times before and that works just fine for me. It kind of cuts out a step but I’m staying organized all the same.
Do you typically outline before writing the first draft? Or do you do this step at a different time or skip it all together? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.
Another year has come and gone. And no, I don’t mean 2017. I mean NaNo is just around the corner.
I’m excited to get back into NaNo. I feel like my writing has been short this past year. I’ve really only written anything during the NaNo months. I’ve slowly been fixing that, but NaNo is when I’m the most productive. I think it’s the “competition” of my writing buddies that really makes me go.
While I have so many novels written that need editing, I feel weird not writing anything new for NaNo.
I’ve been on Wattpad for a long time now. I’ve been wanting to post a story or two on there and I just… haven’t. So, I plan on writing a novel/novella during NaNo. I’ll give that one or two rounds of edits and then post it on Wattpad. My goal is to have it published sometime in January.
This past August, I posted an interactive Short Story Sunday where you, my readers, got to vote on what should happen next in the story.
I got a lot of positive feedback on the story and a few people have asked me to continue it. It was a story idea that I had debated on expanding. I’ve decided I’m going to continue it.
Meredith’s story was wrapped up in those four parts, but I know how it will continue with her roommate, Paige, and the Professor.
I plan on outlining it in October, writing it in November, editing it in December, and then publishing it on Wattpad in January. We’ll see how well that works out, but that’s the plan for now.
“Special” is a working title where the Professor will continue to pawn off his special notebook hoping to choose the “correct” person to handle its power. The power can be good or bad, depending on how who uses it and how they use it. Where the notebook came from, no one seems to know. The Professor seems to know more than what he lets on. We’ll just have to see what Paige decides to do with the power.
I’m still outlining the story now so more information on the story itself will come at the end of the month.
I’m looking forward to expanding on this idea. I hope it turns out well and I hope you’ll all read it (and enjoy it) when it’s on Wattpad.
Are you participating in NaNoWriMo next month? What will you be working on? Let me know in the comments below and we’ll chat!
March is coming to a close a lot faster than I expected it to.
As a teacher, this month drags on and on with no breaks until the end of April. As a writer, however, this month goes always seems to come and go in the blink of an eye.
One main reason for this is because I’m trying to prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo that begins on April 1st. Plus I’m working on other writing projects. Not to mention that I’m trying to get my blog in decent order by April so I can focus more on Camp than I do with writing blog posts.
I think it’s been a while since I’ve really talked about what I’m currently working on writing-wise, so I thought, with Camp around the corner, this was a good time as any.
My goal at the beginning of 2017 was to have either the first novel of my mystery series or The Lost Girl be 100% completed by the end of August (and the other completed by the end of 2017). At this rate, I’m not sure that will happen.
Of course, I’m still going to work towards those deadlines, but I’ve realized that I have much more to work on in addition to those novels.
I’ve felt stuck with my writing lately only because I’m unsure what I should be working on. Which projects take priority?
I have three novels to work on (if you include Camp’s novel), plus I plan on posting two stories on Wattpad by the end of the year. That’s five novels.
I’ve always been submitting to contests and magazines at least twice a month, so I’ve been working on short stories and poems. Not to mention that I’ve been trying to get my foot into the freelance writing world at the same time.
Stir reading, blogging, and video games for Double Jump into the mix, and you’ve got a pretty good reason for as to why my head feels like it’s going to explode.
With all that said, I’ve realized that I haven’t gotten too much writing done in the past couple of months. I’ve been working on my blog and other things trying to think about how to tackle my writing projects without actually implementing my plan of attack.
I’ve written a few things, of course, for submission on other websites and magazines and the like, but I haven’t worked on any of the novels I planned to work on in 12 months. Well, now we’re down to almost nine months left and I don’t have much progress to show for it.
I realized that Camp NaNo is exactly what I needed. Because of Camp, I’m going to get myself back on the right track with my novel writing.
Sure, because of Camp, an extra novel got thrown into the mix, but it’ll be fun to think about a different project than the ones I’ve been working on for so long. Plus, I can take my time with it as I edit it bit by bit and submit it each month to my local writing group. I only submit about 15 pages (or one chapter) a month to my group, so it’ll take a while for the group to get through it.
In the meantime, I’m going to tackle editing The Lost Girl and George Florence as well as plan and write the two Wattpad novels (one of those novels is based off this Short Story Sunday everyone seemed to love so much).
I’m going to start this as soon as possible. Hopefully, by April, I’ll be in a decent enough routine with it so I can work on more than just my Camp novel. I know that will take priority for the month, but I hope to get other things done.
I’ve updated the “My Books” page with deadlines for each of these novels. Go check that out if you want to see the timeline I’ve planned for each novel (and if you want to hold me accountable for the deadlines… that’s why I posted it on the blog for all to see).
Where do you stand in your novel writing at the moment? Are you just as swamped as I am or are you working on just one project? Let me know in the comments below!
People always say to write what you know. And that’s great, but then your novel would be pretty limited, wouldn’t it?
I find writing to be a great opportunity to write about something you don’t know. Find something that interests you that you never pursued and look into it more.
For example, when I was younger, before I decided to be a teacher and realized I wanted to write, I dreamed of being a spy or a detective. I had those play spy kits with notepads and pretend handcuffs and glasses that you would see behind you–the whole nine yards.
And look at me now: I write mystery novels. I’ve studied the police exam to get a feel of what it’s like. I solve puzzles and riddles in mystery video games (one where I’m a defense lawyer). I have books where I study what it’s like to be a police officer or detective, looked up various ways to die and the consequences of murder, and much more.
Let me tell you, it’s not very glamorous.
But when do you conduct that research? Do you cram the information into your mind before you begin? Maybe you research a bit here and there in the moment as you write? Or maybe you just free write, bold scenes you’re unsure of and do the research part after you finish writing?
Here’s your answer: You can research anytime.
That’s it. The end. See you tomorrow.
Well, I did decide to start a post about this, so I guess I’ll elaborate…
Research before writing
There are two reasons you should research before you start writing your novel:
1. You’re a planner.
2. You have a decent list of topics you need to look into or else the first draft of your novel will make absolutely no sense.
When I first started my mystery novel way back when I decided to do the research after. I knew I had a lot to look into and instead of spending a few months trying to learn it all, I figured I would just have the research component be part of the editing process. Or, look small things up along the way.
I love to outline, so I made a list of things I didn’t know, things I would probably need to know or the sake of my novel. I listed them but didn’t bother to look into them right away. Needless the say, the first draft of my novel wasn’t very good, to say the least.
I’ve done research before writing a novel and let me tell you, it’s a lot of notes to dig through as you write. And it slows the actual writing part down a bit.
Research during writing
I’ll admit, I find this one to be the most effective. If you need to know certain tidbits here and there, a quick Google search in the middle of your writing isn’t so bad. If you have something large to expand on, then it may be easier to make a note of it and just go back to it in the editing process.
The perks of researching as you write are as follows:
1. It saves you a bit of time when editing.
2. It gives you a small break in the middle of writing.
While it saves you time with editing, I know you’re thinking that it doesn’t save you time writing at all. But, it gives you a break with the writing.
If you’re on a roll, bold what you don’t know, and move on. Keep writing if your imagination allows it. However, if you notice that your flow has slowed down and you keep thinking back to that one spot you’re unsure of, stop.
Researching in the middle of your writing will give your brain a quick break. It’ll help you figure out where to go next, based on your research, and you may even come up with new ideas.
Research after writing
So you’ve finished a novel and it doesn’t make any sense. You have a list of topics to research, big and small.
Well, go ahead and get started.
Doing your research when you finish the novel helps your editing process get underway as you expand on certain scenes and realize others may not work out as well now.
Then again, you may end you being in for some serious rewriting. Editing is always a long process and adding the research part will make it seem longer. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You should take your time with it after all.
Is researching part of the outlining process or the editing process? Who really knows?
In the end, it’s up to you, up to the novel, and is an in-the-moment kind of thing.
I personally research at any stage of the novel, but I’ll admit I mostly research during and at the end of writing the novel. When you research before you may not know all the information you actually need.
Plus, I’ve always enjoyed researching as long as it wasn’t for a paper for school.
When do you typically research for your novels? How do you go about it? Let me know in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
Do you focus on your plot or your characters? What do you think of these tips and can you think of some more?
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can work out jotting down points for future scenes or relevant info in 3 ways:
Write down points elsewhere as you are plotting, even if it is in the middle of a paragraph.
Outline one chapter and reread, writing down any new points and ideas only then and not letting it interrupt your flow in the middle.
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.
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?
To outline or not to outline… that is the question.
Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.
However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).
The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.
Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.
This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.
Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.
That would be too easy.
The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.
They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.
Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.
Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.
However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.
Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.
Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.
All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.
I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.
There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.
As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.