Thursday, July 11, 2013

Blog #11 Outlining a Novel: Why I gotta do it…

Years ago, I learned through a ton of trial and error, that I’m not a “by the seat of the pants” kind of writer.  I have to have an outline.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down and started writing what I thought was a great scene or a great character just to run out of steam half way there.  I’d always get to a point where I didn’t know where I was going – what’s going to happen next?? Outlines help me get through that. Having one in place before I ever write the first page helps me when I feel stuck. I always know where I’m supposed to be writing towards.  And if one chapter is giving me fits, I can move on to the next because I know what’s supposed to happen next.

I know there are lots of writers that claim to be “pantsers” and write quite well, but I suspect they just have their outline thought out internally, rather than on paper. I, myself, like to write mine out.  Now I’m not talking about a traditional I. II. III., A. B.C. kind of outline here.  I’m talking about a chapter outline: a rather detailed description of all the plot points that will occur in every chapter from beginning to end.  When I do this, I take about a week to plan it all and write it down.  As a result, I’ve found that I rarely end up moving entire chapters around in the editing phase, because I’ve done that in the outline phase, and lemme tell you, it’s much easier to move a three sentence chapter description than an entire chapter any day. J

I’ve been taught in plot workshops that each chapter should have its own intro, middle, and climax, just like a finished novel does. I’m not sure that’s a hard and fast rule, but it’s a good guide to what each chapter should include.  If you haven’t come across The Plot Whisperer online yet, she’s a wealth of knowledge on plotting. I highly recommend her Youtube videos.  They're free!!

So tell me, if you’re a writer, how do you plan and write your novels? Is it working for you?  Do you think you might want to try outlining now?


  1. I'm not a writer of books, just blogs. And I've learned the same strategy really helps most of the time. I write the main theme, the main points, the keywords and THEN the title. Then I start writing and it comes really quickly.

  2. Yes, it works with any size peice, really. Even if you just plan it out as as beginning, middle, and end, it helps!

  3. I did actually pants my first novel but have since discovered that in order to properly edit I've needed to go back and plan each chapter, just a couple of lines is enough but in order to help the flow planning seems to be essential.

  4. Exactly! You can avoid it for awhile, but the reader does appreciate some structure :) whether they know it or not!

  5. I tend to blend the two. Every book is different, but I usually outline in my head then start writing. When I get a good feeling of how the book is progressing or when ideas start popping in my head faster than I can remember, I start a written outline.

    Unfortunately, I rarely stick to the outline... I can cut and paste with the best of them! :)

  6. I often change my plan somewhere along the way too. I've just found that I do better with some expectation of what the end will be than not. Thanks for stopping by :)