NaNoWriMo Bootcamp #2C – Outlining

Alright, the last thing on plotting that I want to talk to all of you about is your outline. Yes, pantsers, I get it, you don’t outline. But again, I think this is something super useful that you can create as you write as well to help you remember what happened in your story for when you go back to finish the manuscript or edit it later. It can also help when you’re trying to figure out what is necessary or not when editing, or in trying to rearrange content. So whether you outline before, during, or after you write your novel, it’s still incredibly useful. For me, its an indispensable re-writing tool. A lot of my outlining I do in my head, but I always have at least one line of info to get me started on a chapter.

So, how does one outline? It’s a personal choice, but this is my method:

First, start with the big bullet points you know you need to hit.

  • Dude gets accepted to magic school
  • Dude finds out about a super secret thing
  • Dude saves super secret thing
  • Dude is a hero

That’s a bit over-simplistic, but you get the point. Big, broad strokes. Then you go back and start putting in a bit more detail:

  • Dude is an orphan, killed by man who wants super secret thing
  • Dude gets accepted to magic school
    • Oh hey, wouldn’t it be nifty if they rode a train?
  • Dude doesn’t like the people he meets from this one part of the school. Let’s name it after a snake, cause that sounds menacing.
  • Dude makes friends with a guy and a girl (gender balance is good)
    • Kinda like a heart, guts, and brain combo
  • Dude gets to play school sport
    • Soccer meets flight. How’s that supposed to work?
  • Dude finds out about super secret thing
  • Dude does more research, finds out others are after it
  • Dude saves super secret thing
    • challenges for all his friends
  • Dude is a hero

See how I dropped in questions as I had them? This reminds me when I go back through on my next pass that this was something I wanted to work on. So maybe I spend the entire next day figuring out the rules to this imaginary sport, or trying to name the houses. As I outline, I will find lots of these places where I should probably expand, and I will also find those pesky plot holes when I discover I have no idea how to get from one bullet point to another. Like, how does Dude get from finding out about the super secret thing to saving it? What steps do I need to have Dude take? Also, I should probably spend some time figuring out what to name all these people…just saying.

Keep expanding your outline, and add in as many subdividing layers as you need. Sometimes my outlines are all one level, sometimes I’ll have four or five indented lists under things. It all depends on the story and how much detail it is going to require. Once I feel like I have dreamed up all the stuff I’m going to need prior to getting down to the actual writing, I do one more thing. Divide by potential chapters.

Here’s where that Google drive setup comes in handy again. I’ll keep the whole outline in one file, but then I’ll copy the section I think belongs in which chapters into individual files so that it’s easier to look at just that chunk of prep work. Of course things are going to change and shift, and the end of your story may end up being drastically different from what you initially thought it would be, but this way at least helps make your writing process go a bit faster. And it also keeps you from looking at a blank page, because, man, are those scary.

Now, go get to outlining, and I’ll see you back here next week for Character Building! Until then, happy writing!


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