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Monday, November 30, 2015

What is Outlining a novel?

I've written a book through trial and error. When I first started I thought --Hey, all you have to do is write words and it will come together.

Ha, I say, Ha. Not so. I haven't met one author that has been able to bust out a perfect first draft that landed a publishing contract. From my experience I've learned the entire process goes much smoother when I actually write out histories, personalities, the setting, and my overall story plot.

Next, I take an actual notebook, yes lined paper, and I write out EACH chapter as its own small story. I outline the motivation of the characters, the conflict which will occur in my chapter, I write a small climax that hopefully will encourage readers to keep reading onto the next chapter.

The first book in my trilogy took me nearly three years, and it's currently still in a final developmental editing phase. It's done, but before I put my name on any book I want it to SPARKLE! Anyway, I was more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer when I began. I have probably--no exaggeration--written 12 drafts! My story has changed enormously over the years and I almost lost my mind, almost. It was enjoyable, and I loved writing it, but I believe I didn't choose the best way. As I've begun to write my second installment in the series I've already made it to chapter 5 within a month. It took me an entire month to write the first chapter in the first book.

What's the difference you ask? I outlined the second. Granted it is easier since I have a very clear knowledge of who my characters are, and what they want. I  know where my story is going and I've already created the setting. But instead of just typing it all out, I outlined each chapter like this:

Chapter 1

  1. What needs to happen to hook the reader? (I proceed to write my idea for the chapter)
  2. What are the goals of the characters?
  3. What is the motivation of the chapter to the end of the story
  4. What is the climax to keep readers engaged
That's all. I do that for each chapter. On chapters 2-the end keep in mind your chapter breaks are important. Chapter breaks are where you end the previous chapter. If you end it in the middle of an action, make sure you add a sentence or two catching the reader up for when they pick up the book again. Maybe they went to bed during the previous chapter, If you remind them what's happening they won't have to go back to the previous chapter and it will get them closer to all the juicy stuff I know you've got planned.

Each author has their own system. I edit on my computer, I know authors that print out their manuscript and edit on paper. I still outline in a notebook, I only turn to the computer when I'm ready to write the actual words. 

Find your own system, I recommend using some type of outline, even if it's small. It will help you avoid holes in your story and more. 

Tell me your process, I'm all ears. I'm a wannabe after all. There are always things we can learn from others. 

Happy Writing! (and outlining)

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