Outlining your novel may seem like a daunting task at first, but it will save you a ton of headaches in the long run. While there are a large number of authors who insist, outlining is unnecessary, and it stagnates the creative flow of the story. Well, that is a bunch of crap. It really boils down to what your writing style is. I say, unless you have experience in writing novels, and you have a firm grasp of what works for you, then you should probably error on the side of an outline. Savvy? There are several ways in which to outline your novel, but at the end of the day it is up to you to determine what is best. You may find yourself trying several methods before you find the one that best fits you. You may even develop your own! As long as you can understand what the heck is going on, it really doesn’t matter what you use.
Outlines will help keep your story stay on track and flowing. You are in no way obligated to stick to your outline, you can adjust the plot as the story progresses. It wouldn’t be the first-time inspiration hit while you are writing, and a fresh idea for your story comes to life. Remember, the outline serves more as a guide to help keep you focused and your story on track, so you don’t go too far of course. This can also go a long way in preventing writers block. You will have your story laid out in front of you the whole time. All you have to do is breathe life into the page. Outlines can be as extensive or has brief as you want, but I would humbly propose that your outline should be as long as it takes to frame your complete story. Personally, l outline my story and perform a great deal of free writing in between the main plot points that I established. This allows me to exercise my imagination, as well as keep me on track. I had to rewrite my outline during this process, but it really got my creative juices flowing. That being said, it is what works for me…so far anyway.
There are a lot of different outlining methods you can use. I will list some, not all, of them to consider with a brief description. I urge you to look these up and determine what might be best for you.
Index card (or Corkboard method). This is where you write you plot devices in a quick one or two sentences on a card. You will also write your subplots on cards as well (I would suggest using alternate colors). Once done, you will arrange them in order of your story on a cork board. This allows for a great deal of flexibility in switching up your story.
Structure outline (Acts). This is the tried and true method of using roman numerals, or an alpha-numeric method to plot out your story. Traditionally it is separated into “Acts” Beginning, Main story, and End. This allows the writer to really flesh out their story in a very orderly, detailed fashion, so they can see how it flows.
Sign post method. This method as you can imagine has main plot points written out. Then you will free write from there. This method is generally used by writers who do not enjoy outlines, but haven’t accepted the free writing methods either. This is the least structured of them all and offers a great deal of mobility.
Outlines will go a long way in cutting down on your revision process when your manuscript is complete, and proof reading your story, looking for plot holes, and flow snags in your story line
. Regardless of which method you choose, you may want to make use of a method when starting out writing. I personally have found having an outline has been incredibly beneficial to my progress. As long as you understand your outline, then I say use it! Good luck and see you next Writer’s Wednesday!