Monday, June 6, 2011

Outlining Your Novel - Part 1

So the self-professed pantser here has some news.  I... um, how do I say this?

*deep breath*  Imadeanoutline.

Didn't catch that?  Okay, okay... I made an outline.

Yeah, me.  An outline.  To write to.  I know, I'm shocked too.  It just kinda happened.  I didn't mean to -- I opened excel to organize my thoughts on the new WIP and before I knew it I had a color-coded outline of awesomesauce.

What the heck?  ;)

Anyway, seeing as Erinn loved the form I made, and even asked to share it with the Weekend of Awesomers, I figure maybe I should share it with all of you too.  Along with all the reasoning and explanations for the way it looks and such.

That is a bit much for a single blog post, so I'm going to break it into a couple.  One today and one tomorrow.  And tomorrow I'll give you the form I created so you can use it too if you like it.  (So long as you don't, you know, try to go and sell it or something.  That wouldn't be cool.  But feel free to use it for your own purposes.)

The first thing I always do when I have a new novel idea is sit down with a pen and pad of paper and write out my thought process.  At the top of the page I put the question that spurred the idea and just see where it develops.  I do this even if I don’t plan on making a formal outline.

Once I can see what my basic concept is, I write a general synopsis.  Could be one page, could be three, it just depends on how much is running through my head.  The only goal here is to get out an idea of where I see the story progressing at the moment.  So I approacheded my outline with a solid concept and a general idea of where it was going, but NO idea how to put it into any kind of outline structure.

When I was in High School and college, I wrote plays.  I was very into theater and took a lot of classes on it and whatever, so when I approached this outline I looked at it almost like I would a play.  And I know there are some books out there who tout the advantages of using a three-act-structure in novels.  Why not, right?

Here's what my outline looks like:

It's three pages, five colors, eighteen chapters, and thirty-six scenes worth of outline.  :D

The side of my brain I use for the day job LOVES this outline.  It's so shiny and colorful and ORGANIZED!!!  And there are numbers and percentages and formulas and... *gasps for breath*'s beautiful.

At the top I have my working title and a little blurb about the concept.  The notes along the right margin are subplots.

Along the left margin are structure notes based on the three-act structure method.  There's a column for chapter numbers, scene numbers (because I write in scenes), location, characters, and a description of what happens.  *whew*

Okay, this post is super long.  Come back tomorrow for more info on the structure, what the colors mean, and to grab the file.  :D

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