How to Outline a Novel
Novel Writing TIps
Reading a variety of books and paying attention to their structure can help give you an idea of how you would like to outline your own novel. Take notes on how the story is developed and try to create an outline of a novel to get an idea of how it was put together.
Writing Tips From Anne Rice
Plenty of writers out there prefer to let their fingers dance freely along the keyboard without a clue as to where they might go, rather than start with an outline to map out their novel. While that technique may work for many an author out there, understanding how to outline a novel can really help get those in need of a bit more direction to get started. One of the most essential aspects to outline-writing for a novel is that there is no end to the way that you may choose to create your own. Here, I have provided just a couple of techniques to give you an idea of what is out there and perhaps inspire you to start your very own outline for your novel that works best for you.
The problem many authors find with the idea of outlining a novel is the fact that it may impede creativity as you are stuck on a set direction for the story. This is why I beg you to remember that an outline is not a contract that must be followed exactly in order for a quality novel to be produced. Think of it as more of a guide in case you get lost or wander too far from the right path. Things may change in the story as you go along but an outline can keep you from straying too far from what you had in mind at the get go and keep you focused as you produce each chapter.
As I already mentioned, there is no end to the ways in which you can outline a novel. Some writers choose to create just a general outline of the plot for their story, others may draw up an outline for each scene they plan to have within the books, and there are even some authors who choose to create detailed outlines and other documents for each character, location, and other aspects within their story before writing a single word down in chapter one. What you choose to outline and how detailed you are about it all depends on you and your own needs, so your decision should be based on what you feel comfortable working with.
How to Storyboard For a Novel
Storyboards are one of the best ways to outline a novel, especially if you are a very visual person. They can be written on a large poster, a small piece of paper, a whiteboard, or saved on your computer, whatever fits you best. Storyboards are basically set up like a checkerboard, with squares filling up the paper or other media of your choice that each represent a chapter within the novel. The size of the squares and amount that you have are all dependent on how long your novel is and how much detail you are planning outline for that novel.
Another great part about storyboards is that they can be really fun. Really large storyboards can be found on walls or boards that have been divided into big squares to fit any amount of sticky notes, pictures, and any other bits of inspiration that are relevant to that portion of the novel. Sticky notes are especially helpful as they can be stuck together within a single square and represent each scene within that chapter. When you have a storyboard finished and laid out before you, it makes it easier to see where your novel is going and how every piece fits into the larger picture of your story. Just remember that as you write, you never know when a scene or other detail may unexpectedly change due to sudden inspiration.
The many varieties that can be found in storyboards shows how an outline for a novel can come in all shapes and sizes. Just make sure you have enough room to keep them safe from harm, if you choose to go really big.
Novel Outline Writing Tips
Using different colors within your outline can make it a little more fun to look at and a lot more organized. Experiment with different color pencils or other media and assign meanings to each color. For example, if there is a detail in one chapter foreshadowing something later one, use a color such as red to mark it so that you remember to include it in that chapter as you write.
Writing a Novel Outline
The more basic form of writing an outline for a novel is to just answer a few general questions and write them all out on sheets of paper for you to follow. There is no end to the amount of outlines you can write for your novel, which can be embrace the entire novel as a whole, or break up into separate outlines each for characters, scenes, chapters, and for the plot line. This type of outline can be tedious and involves a lot of drafting but it is worth it in the end to have a solid outline to follow as you write your novel.
The process for this type of outline for a novel is to start off brainstorming. Just sit down and write out anything off of the top of you head that you are thinking for your novel. Usually, this comes from days, weeks, or even months of thinking through different aspects of your novel from the basic story to the names of each character. Once you have as much information as you feel is necessary, you can really begin outlining your novel.
Now that you have these ideas down, it is time to put them together into an outline to guide you through the writing process. There are many questions you will have to answer as you create your novel's outline, which begin very broad and narrow down into more specific aspects essential to the plot. First, I suggest you attempt to write a summary for your novel that would be worthy of that spot at the back of a book or inside the jacket. If you cannot keep your summary focused enough for one to two sentences, that may mean that your ideas are not focused enough to get started on your outline so if you find yourself in that situation, I would suggest going back to the drawing board and brainstorming more before continuing this process.
Now that you have a summary down, there are a few questions to get you started mapping out an outline. The first questions you want to answer when you begin this form of outline are as follows:
- Who is your main character?
- What central problem or conflict will they face in the novel?
- How will they solve this problem?
- What difficulties will they face when trying to achieve their goal?
- What are the main events within the novel?
- What type of novel will this be?
- What is the setting of the novel?
How to Teach Yourself to Outline for a Novel
If you still do not feel comfortable outlining your own novel, practice with a novel or two written by others. As you read a book, take each chapter apart and outline it scene by scene, chapter by chapter until you are finished. Take a look at what you have created and how each part of the novel fits into the larger picture. With enough practice, you may find writing your own outline for a novel to be much easier.
How do you write a novel outline?
Which method would you choose?
Outline for a Book
At this point in the process, you will have many of the more general aspects of the novel figured out, such as who is the main character and what conflict they will face. Now, you want to decide on scenes to include within the novel. Do not worry about order just yet. Instead, focus on the importance of each scene within the story. You will want to put them all in order in the end, as you divide them up into chapters.
Once again, there are questions to keep in mind as you come up with scenes to include in your outline for a novel. These questions are as follows:
- Who is in the scene?
- Whose point of view will the scene come from?
- How does it fit into the main story?
- Why is it important to the story?
- What happens?
- Where is it?
- What does it accomplish? (For example, does the character move closer or further from his/her goal?)
Once you have the scenes written out and in order, your outline is complete. You may decide to include character outlines or other details of the novel if you wish but that is all up to you. Remember that novel-writing takes time so do not feel rushed during this process. Although understanding how to outline a novel does not guarantee a novel's success, it is one step toward ensuring success, especially for first-time authors as it gives you direction and focus as you write. Good luck!
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