Outlining Your Novel: Four Steps
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a hundred ideas for novels in your head at any given time. You’ve thought about plots, you’ve listened to your characters, and you’ve brainstormed conflict and resolutions. Yet, you still haven’t sat down to write. Perhaps you should consider outlining your novel.
There’s a lot of debate out there about whether outlining your novel is a good idea. We can tackle that topic another time though. For now, let’s discuss ways to effectively outline your book.
Come up with Your Basic Idea
The first step to creating an outline is having a basic idea. You want to come up with more than just “boy saves girl from serial killer”. You want are going to want to know who the protagonist is, who the bad guy is, and what kind of conflict you want. Get to know your idea inside and out.
This might seem difficult at first, but every good story has a premise. Think of Game of Thrones for example. It’s an incredibly complicated story, but you can book it down to the idea that there’s a throne, and people are fighting for it. Throw in a bit of conflict with white walkers, and you’ve got your basic idea figured out.
Get to Know Your Characters
The second step to outlining your novel is getting to know your characters. Start with your primary protagonist(s). What are they like? What’s pushing then toward their goals? How do you want to portray their morals? How will they handle difficult situations?
It’s just as important to know your protagonist(s) inside and out. You have to know why they’re doing the things they do. Are they just flat out evil? Are they sympathetic villains? Do they believe what they’re doing is right? You need to be able to answer these questions.
Come up with a Bullet List of Important Scenes
The next thing you want to do is come up with a list of important scenes. This can be just a few or as many as you’d like. Make a note of where the characters need to get to, and how they’re going to go about getting there. For example, in my book, The Warriors of Valishna, I made a notation of every important thing that needed to happen to drive the plot forward. That included such things as promotions, necessary battles, and specific deaths.
Once you have your bullet list together, you can begin filling in smaller things. If you’ve put that your character needs to arrive in town by August 23rd, you can start brainstorming ways for the character to get there. This will give you a working outline to start writing from!
Putting Outlining Your Novel Into Action
Now that you know your characters, your premise, and have a basic idea of how things need to go, you can start writing! This is the fun part. You want to make sure to consult your bullet list a lot to make sure that you’re staying on track and getting the characters to the right places.
Just remember that an outline can be broken! If you get halfway through the story and realize that you’ve made huge changes, as will happen, it might be time to take a break and reevaluate the direction of the story!
As usual, have fun and good luck with your next bestseller!