The Early Stages: Outlining Pt 1

For someone who loves to be super organized in her daily life, I dread outlining. Weird, right? But not really. Outlining is actually something a number of writers would like to pretend doesn’t exist, or at least avoid it as much as possible.

There are so many ways to make an outline for your story that it can be dizzying just trying to find an outline method that works for you and your novel. Just Google “outlining a novel” (if you haven’t already) and you’ll see what I mean. Some writers swear by a certain outlining method, others swear by no outline, and some swear by both – outlining a small portion and letting flow from there.

I think the most frustrating part for me when I was starting out is the fact that there are so many different outlining techniques. I tried a half dozen outline methods and each one just frustrated me even more. I did manage a complete outline, only once, with a classic three act outline, but I think that’s because I was outlining a story I was revising and attempting to turn into a trilogy.

Now that I’m back into the whole ‘writing thing’ (as some have called it), I find myself in need of outlining once more. Which, unfortunately, can lead to frustration, disinterest, and procrastination on so many levels. So what’s my plan of attack? No plan.

Okay, well, maybe a small plan.

My first step for outlining is actually brainstorming. Writing down anything and everything I can think of for the story. Character ideas, world building points, bits of dialogue, possible plot twists or subplots. If it has to do with the novel, I write it down.

Second step will be organizing said brainstorming (still in the process of step one at this point in time), locating key plot points, seeing if there’s anything else I can add, or if there’s anything I can take out. This will be followed by filling in all the blanks and spaces in between the bits and pieces.

I’m a very hands on person so, while I like the swiftness of being able to type up all the things, I will probably be doing steps 1-3 all by hand. And likely be using a lot of post-its, index cards, tape, pins, and poster board. Or I’ll come up with some crazy organized way that doesn’t involve possibly damaging our apartment walls (’cause that’s the adult thing to do).

I should note that in the midst of following these outlining steps I will also be working on character bios, and possibly a small bit of world building if necessary. I’ve had so many stories crumble beneath me simply because I didn’t know my characters well enough and I wrote a plot point that just didn’t mesh with their… well, character.

So there you have it. My new way of outlining, that may or may not work for me. As the title suggests, there will be an “Outlining Pt 2”, though the exact time frame will depend on when I actually finish my outline. Once I have everything sorted out I will return to this subject and let you all know how it worked out for me, and any other suggests or things I may have changed along the way.

~K. Rose

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