I’m an outliner. I outline my gaming modules, my short stories, and my novels. I outline articles, and essays. I outline.
I discovered my need to outline during my first NaNoWriMo when my characters got lost because I didn’t have a map. Needless to say I stopped writing to world build and outline.
I use the first 14 days of the First Draft in 30 Days method, I use the worksheets from Book in 30 and the scene method from Writer’s Little Helper (also in the same author’s novel writing kit).
For those of you that think that outlining takes away your creativity or your options, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. I’m sorry you are. Most think of outlines in terms of the torture we went through in school. Whether you are a product of the five paragraph essay from High School or went through the dreaded write to be ridiculed college method, most of us don’t have fond memories of outlines.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Step One: Characters
Spend some time writing out some characters. As many as you think you need with as many details as you want. Or as little. Remember this isn’t an end all be all list. In fact many characters that you won’t even realize exist right now will demand their corner of your universe. Some might take over. Remember even your main character is vulnerable to death. This is an open file that you fill in more later. Just get what you know will be in your story down now.
Step Two: Basic Plot
Write out the basic plot line. I use the sheet in FDi30D. Basically write out what they are doing, why and where. This is rarely a sheet long.
Step Two: Location.
Next write each location in your story down in order of location. So I write New York at the top of the sheet and write a rough overview that happens there. This can be as minute as you want. It can be streets in a down, businesses or even just times if they all stay in one place. This gives an idea of where the characters are when and in what chapters.
Step Three: Scenes
Write a few sentences for the ten most important scenes in your story. Make sure you do so for each scene. Now if you need to expand that. Write a general one sentence to a paragraph for each scene. Because I use ywriter I put these notes in each scene section. If you realize that more needs to happen in more chapters, adjust your location list as you do this.
Step Four: Motivations.
I do this sometimes following the worksheet in FDi30D. Basically you chart your scenes by beginning middle and end and write out basic motivations for what’s happening. It’s useful for getting to know the characters, but I never look at the file again even if I do write it.
Step Five: Write!
As you write you may realize you need another scene, just adjust your location and scene lists as need. Same goes when you add characters. Because I have the scene list I’ll skip around writing the scenes in one POV at the same time then going back and writing in the other POV.
Outlines are fluid things. They can be adjusted and changed. In the end you’ll know where you’ve been and will be able to keep your story consistent.