Outlining: Move Your Novel from Concept to Completion
by Julie Anne Lindsey
I’m a passionate fan of outlining, especially for novels with extensive world building and plot twists. They keep my details in order, remind me of key points and provide a roadmap for my story. If you’re having trouble pacing or plotting your novel, outlining is a great way to get the words flowing again. Personally, I think outlining is the most powerful tool in my writer toolkit. Don’t get me wrong. I still follow the story when it deviates from my outline, but as a girl who’s done it both ways, I have to say a detailed outline will save immeasurable amounts of time among other things.
Here are my favorite things about outlining:
Making time to writeis tough. Writers have other things to do, right? Lives. Friends. Family. Fandoms. Actual paying job-gigs. So, we have to make the most of our time at the keyboard. Outlines break the novel into bits, so you can get your head around what you need to write each day. Don’t waste precious time rereading yesterday’s work so you’ll know where to pick up. No more wondering what will go into today’s chapter. With a complete outline, you’ve already done the hard work. You’ve plotted it all and broken things into chapters. Now, mark them off. Delete them if you want. Letter by letter. Number by number. It will be simple to see how far you’ve come and exactly where to start next.
See? You just saved hours! Plus, I love marking things off. Sometimes I make lists just to cross things off. It feels amazing. What writer can’t use a pat on the back?
Outlining gets all your tools in one place: IE your ideas, your time frame, motive and red herrings. When the outline is perfect, you’re ready to write.
No more plot holes and underdeveloped story arcs. Completing an outline will give you the opportunity to review quickly for missing plot points, arcs you started but forgot about, and other writerly disasters. Remember: It take seconds to remedy errors at the outlining stage. Find the same mistake in your manuscript, even in your rough draft, and you’re looking at hours to make it right.
Use color. I color-code my outlines and use them as visual aids when I’m finished. It’s easy to see if the back story scenes (blue) are too clustered or when the romance (pink) runs too thin in one area. Color-coding provides a quick visual of your story.
Voila! Guidelines! Outlines keep you, the writer, moving forward. For example: I try to write a chapter a day. That’s my thing. So, I open my document and my outline, scroll to where I left off and boom! When I’m done with the chapter, I walk away. Guilt free. Which brings me to…
Daily goals. Maybe word count goals discourage you. They flat out freak me out. Don’t even ask me about my Nanowrimo. Just. Uh-uh. Outlines show daily goals in terms of scenes and chapters not words, and I love that. It feels great to finish for the day and not beat myself up for spending such a small amount of time at the keyboard. Hey. I met my goal and I’m going to go watch Netflix.
For me, a couple days of outlining and plot prep saves months of lost time staring at the screen between flashes of inspiration or thousands of lost words when I realize something I put into the story isn’t working. There’s nothing worse than highlighting a few thousand words and hitting DELETE.
What do you think? Do you outline?
Prophecy, book 1, the Calypso series
On the other side of death, is destiny.
Callie Ingram is spending her senior year focused on one thing: swimming. Her skill as a competitive swimmer is going to secure a scholarship and her future, or so she hopes. She has big plans, and Liam Hale, her gorgeous new neighbor, isn’t going to affect them. But when Callie sees Liam beheading someone, she learns his family has a secret that will change everything. The Hales are Vikings, demi-gods who’ve been charged by The Fates to find their new destined leader.
Callie’s caught in the middle of a budding Norse apocalypse, in love with Liam Hale and desperate to protect her best friend—who the Hales believe is marked for transformation. Putting the clues together as fast as she can, Callie discovers she has the power to rewrite destiny, for herself and all humankind.
Julie Anne Lindsey is a multi-genre author who writes the stories that keep her up at night. She’s a self-proclaimed nerd with a penchant for words and proclivity for fun. Julie lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Today, she hopes to make someone smile. One day she plans to change the world.
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