(Yeah, I know it's blurry. Much like my own memories of high school. Thank goodness.)
Many writers prefer "pantsing" a novel, that is, writing it by the seat of their pants. It's free, it flows, it's Bohemian and liberating and wild!
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I knew an extremely talented writer. Her
pages were lyrical, poetic; the dialogue blended well with the narration, the pacing was excellent, and everyone loved her characters.
But, she didn't want to use outlines. She trusted the story to lead her where it wanted to go.
And she had a stockpile of 5-6 novels written to about page 200-300, and then abandoned, because she didn't know how she wanted them to end.
For most writers, we need to know where we're going. And most types of novels: mystery, sci-fi, thrillers - need structure. Genre romance, in particular is very structured: we need to meet the Main Characters by page X, and the first kiss must occur by page Y, and so on.
A good outline is like a blueprint of your story. The same way an architect would never start building a house without first knowing where he was going, neither should a writer start building his story without first knowing where it's going. (from Essortment.com)Outlining doesn't have to be the drudgery it was in your school days. It can be an exciting part of planning your book.
Work on the Possible Twists and TurnsThe advantage of writing a book outline is that one can get the opportunity of discarding or changing the developments of the story line, well before going into the explicit details. It can save you a lot of effort which would be wasted, if you would have fleshed that story line and then realized that it's not getting anywhere. At every point in the story, there are many possible alternative developments, out of which you must choose one. If you are writing a mystery novel, then you ought to put-in tantalizing and misleading clues, which you can plant right in the outline. Put in points in the story, which you could expand at a length, later on.
Make Chapters And Link Them
Chalk out parts of the story, which can become individual chapters. Write out chapter headings. It may so happen that one part of the story or chapter is very clear to you and feel like writing it immediately while you are in the flow. Do that! It often happens that you start with one part of the story directly and then write the past and the future linking it into a whole. As one goes on writing, one sends a lot of imaginative shoots in the past and future, creating an imaginative space in your mind. To write a book outline is to bring all these off shots together, and tie all the loose ends. The outline will serve as a guide when you start fleshing up the novel and writing in details. It will give you an idea as to how much you have done, where you are and how much more remains to be done!
Writing a book is like climbing a mountain. So you need to plan your trek to the top and that is what writing a book outline is all about. A novel is a fictional journey on which the readers are going to accompany you. To make the journey enjoyable to you and the readers, one must put in a lot of effort!
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This technique is very effective and a lot of fun. Mind mapping, is graphically mapping your imaginative outbursts on paper. Take a sheet of paper and draw a circle in center and write the central idea of a chapter in it. Then draw smaller connected circles which are the various ideas and developments of the main concept. This way you can have a mind map of your thoughts about the chapter, which will help you in writing every chapter. Then piece together the chapters through a mind map for the whole novel! Try it out!
e-How's got two good articles - this one suggests:
eHow's other article is more about writing a book outline as a proposal, than as a writing guide, but may also be helpful.
As I work on my most ambitious novel to date, with shifting Points Of View, a timeline, and various locations, I can't imagine trying it without an outline. I'm using a spreadsheet, but also colored markers, to make sure I am balancing the different POVs, not having too many chapters occur in the same locale, and also using the timeline to introduce time clues in each chapter.
One character, for example, is very much interested in gardening and trees, so in every chapter told from her POV she notices what is currently blooming, needs to be pruned, or seems neglected.
If you want to write a novel that is as satisfying as a well-balanced, seven-course meal, learn about outlining, and put it to work for you.
What's your favorite method of outlining?
Got more good links?
Please share, in the comments, below.