As promised in my previous blog post “How To Outline Your Novel With a Bulletin Board” I’ve created another post that goes into further detail on the way I’m currently outlining my novel.
My Outline Method
Step 1: Come up with a basis for a story. There are many way you can do this. Choose what method works for you. If you need some inspiration check out my Pinterest Boards Writers Block and Writers Journal.
Step 2: Think about the type of characters you could create to portray the story.
Step 3: Go On Pinterest and Google Images to find a physical representation of the characters you’re thinking of. If you need help finding an inspiring image check out my Pinterest board Inspiration: Characters *Warning* I write Romance therefore any inspiring character’s picture will have a fair amount of skin showing (unless it’s a minor character like children or family).
Step 4: Create an in depth character profile. You can come up with the questions yourself and either write them down on a piece of paper or write them in a word document. If you write them in a word document I would suggest printing that document out and placing it in a binder for your current WIP (Work in Progress) and sit it on your desk or work area. I don’t know about you but I tend to completely forget about all the files I have on my computer. Here is a Character Profile Sheet that I use as a starting off point.
Step 5: Next, have a brainstorming session and write down any and all ideas that come to mind with the information from the characters profile and the basic story line you have in your head.
Step 6: Now it’s time to set up the 3 Act Structure. If there is anyone reading this blog post that doesn’t know what I’m talking about check out Amanda Patterson’s diagram.
Lay out a 4 tiered column on the bulletin board and label it as such: Tier 1: Details, Tier 2: Act 1, Tier 3: Act 2 and Tier 4: Act 3. Then inside each column, place a marker for 10 chapters. I work my outline on the premise of a 50,000 word novel or 30 chapter book. It can be more or less by the time I’m ready to hand in my manuscript but that’s the template I start out with. In each Column label where plot points and key moments might happen. (Remember, this is just a guideline)
Chapter 1: Begin with a Bang
Chapter 2: Examine the External and Internal Relationship Arc
Chapter 3: Romantic Tension
Chapter 5: Inciting Incident (Plot Point)
Chapter 7: Refusal to Change
Chapter 10: 1st Turning Point/1st Test (Plot Point)
Chapter 11: Outcome of 1st test
Chapter 13: Romantic Suspense
Chapter 15: Examine the Internal and External Relationship Arc
Chapter 16: Middle Point of Book
Chapter 17: Romantic Climax
Chapter 18: Rose Glow
Chapter 19: Examine the Internal and External Relationship Arc
Chapter 20: Downhill Slide
Chapter 21: Turning Point (Plot Point)
Chapter 23: New Plan
Chapter 24: Romantic Suspense
Chapter 25: Plot Twist (Plot Point)
Chapter 27: Confrontation
Chapter 28: Climax (Plot Point)
Chapter 29: Return to normal
Chapter 30: Denouement
Step 7: Plot Outline – Describe possible plot elements and place them on the board. If you’re searching for plotting inspiration check out this article at Romance University called The Plotting Wheel or stop by my Pinterest Board called Plot Building .
Step 8: Sit back and study the card placement on your board. Make sure the structure of the book flows the way it needs to for the story you are trying to write.
Step 9: With the story, characters and plot points in mind, start brainstorming scenes. Minor scenes for minor chapters and major scenes for the chapters that will house your plot points in the story. For some inspiration on building a scene check out my Pinterest board called Scene Building . Create a spread sheet or just put some lines on a piece of paper. One column should be the chapter # and whether or not that chapter will be a regular chapter, a plot point chapter, or a chapter that needs to up the Romantic Suspense. Then in the column next to it write out a brief summary of what the scene will be then assign that scene an index card. Use different colored index cards for different actions so that when you glance at your board you have an idea of what each chapter has in it. This is the color system I use:
- White – General/basic
- Yellow – Key info/Clue
- Orange – Action
- Pink – Romance
- Blue – Conflict
- Purple – Resolutions/Reflections
- Red – Climax
- Green – Chapter Summary
Step 10: This is where I like to waste time on the internet and scout out locations or inspirations of locations for my scenes. If you would like to check out pictures of scenes I found inspiring go to my Pinterest board titled Inspiration:Scenes/Settings.
Step 11: Take a few days and type out a proper outline. I like using the snowflake method because (1) it’s detailed and (2) a lot of the pieces I end up with will help me when it comes time to shop around for agents, publishers, and to market my book. If you unfamiliar with the method take the time to check it out. The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.
Step 12: Study your board and your outline. Really take the time to look it over. Then, when you’re ready pound at that first draft. Use the board and outline as a guideline. Don’t let it box you in. It’s there to help keep you on track and to help ward off writers block, not to hinder your creativity.
I hope you find something helpful in the way I outline. It’s a combo of a bunch of different methods that teeters on the verge of being overkill, I know, but at the moment it seems to be working out for me. I know that as I continue writing books it will change in some way or another like it does for many other writers.
Did you outline when you first started?
If so, what method did you use?
How has it changed over the years?