Monday, November 14, 2011

Prepping for a novel

As I've mentioned several times on this blog, I'm a huge fan of outlining. I go through chapter by chapter before I even start a novel and write out everything that's going to happen. This method obviously doesn't work for everyone, but for people as organized as me, outlines are a must.

So how do I outline? Well, the plot-based part of an outline is rather straightforward. Once I write a brief paragraph summary for each chapter, I lay them out in a chronological line to see where the climax, resolution, inciting incident, etc. fall. This gives me a visual of the novel's pacing. The inciting incident should occur within the first thirty pages, and the climax, generally, happens about 3/4 of the way through the book. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but it's nice to see your novel laid out in front of you.

Secondly, I work on character sketches. I'd say these are the most important. Write out all pertinent information, including age, physical characteristics, family, friends, hobbies, dreams, goals, secrets, primary emotions, and reactions. Reactions are of the utmost does this character react to different situations? Try writing at least one scene from the viewpoint of each of your major characters, even if the book itself isn't from their point of view. This will help you get a sense of their voice.

Lastly, relationships. I do at least a page of outlining for every relationship between every major character, whether it's a friendly relationship, a familial relationship, or a romance. When I finally start writing, these pages are a guideline as to how characters will interact with one another.

So there's my outlining process. For those of you who do outline, do you deviate from my method? Any tricks to share?


  1. I outline as if I'm writing a synopsis, but if I imagine one scene in more detail, I add all the details I can think of, even writing snippets when I'm sufficiently inspired. Other scenes are glossed over until I get to the point where I have to "cross that bridge". Then I try to write a scene/chapter goal, but often, I'll just pants it.

    I write character backgrounds only when I feel like I need to know more about a character's motivations, or to figure out what their past is like, so they are usually of secondary importance to me as compared to the synopses. Maybe I should try things the other way around!

  2. I'm a real pantser. I can't write with outlines, though I'm in awe of those who do. The most planning I do is work out the characters names, what they look like, and write a synopsis of what I think it's going to be like. Then I just write.

  3. I've tried outlining and I've tried not outlining. For me, the outline becomes a problem because my characters tend to develop into little plot divas. They no longer would do as my outline says. Then, I try to force them to do stuff and say "My plot plan says you have to do this, so do it!" Not good.