Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five Refreshing Ways to Outline Your Book

I know a lot of writers who love to outline. I know a lot of writers who don't write a single sentence of their book before their outline is done. I know writers who are really great at crafting organized, beautiful outlines that help them write their stories all the way through.
I am not one of these writers.
I don't know what it is about it, but I just don't like outlining. More often than not when I try to write one, I find myself just getting stuck! I'm also the kind of writer who doesn't depend on an outline when writing a story (although I do tend to depend on one when I'm writing an essay. But that's beside the point.)
Although I don't always need an outline, sometimes I like to have one--or, something like an outline. Because when you're a person who sucks at making outlines such as myself, you experiment with a few different options. I've never liked the basic "Chapter One" followed by a paragraph of detail about the chapter kind of outline, because I've never had the patience for it. So, here are five of my favorite ways to outline your book in  a new, refreshing way.


1. Chapter-by-Chapter One-Liners. This is my favorite way to "outline." Basically, write or type out chapters one through however many you think you may have. Then, besides each chapter number, write one line that describes what's happening in that chapter. This is basically a short and sweet, less detailed version of a regular outline. If you don't have a plan for a particular chapter, put a question mark there and come back to it later.
2. Stream of Consciousness Outlining. For this technique, simply open a word document or grab a notebook and write down everything you know about your story. How it starts, the characters, the backstory, the time before your story takes place, the plot twists, etc. Write it all down with no regard for grammar or order. This is a really great way to "empty your mind" onto a page. It's especially helpful if you're feeling overwhelmed with all the ideas in your head.
3. Outline with pictures. I find this method easiest when using Pinterest because it's super organized, but you could also use google, a photo site like Flickr, or even your own photography if you wanted to. Outlining with pictures could be done in a lot of ways, but my personal favorite is gathering photos that remind me of scenes or lines in my story. I like to put everything into a Pinterest board, but I've also saved my inspiration in files on my computer, and I've also taken my own inspiring pictures. When I use Pinterest for this, I'll usually add a description to the pin, detailing what scene or chapter the picture describes.
4. Outlining guides and worksheets. Like I said before, I don't like outlining. At all. So if there's some kind of worksheet or guideline that can help me, I'm all over it. My personal favorites can be found here and here. Of course, there are plenty to be found online! Google away.
5. Verbal Outlining. I personally find this easiest to do with a friend, but feel free to try it by yourself! Verbal outlining is basically what I like to call "talking it out." It's what my cousin and I do when we can't figure out our stories. We sit somewhere by ourselves, or we walk around and pace, or we go for a drive. We take turns talking about our novels out loud. We talk about our characters, their emotions, their looks, etc. We talk about the story itself, and our ideas, and basically anything that comes to mind. As we talk, we give each other pointers and feedback as well as potential ideas that end up benefiting us both. Talking out loud gives your brain a change from silent thoughts or words on a screen or page, and it's amazing what that little change can do!

There are so many creative ways to form an outline for a story, so never feel obligated to stick with regular outlining! If you have any weird or different ways you like to form an outline, let me know! I'm always up for trying new techniques :) Happy writing!

4 comments:

  1. Have you heard of the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson? It's the one I'm trying to use right now. When I was younger I was always a pantser, but I've slowly become a plotter. Not sure why it changed. Here's the link :) http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/

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  2. They seem pretty cool and fun, so thanks for posting them! Some other ways to outline include the three act structure, hero's journey, freytag model, writing a summary/synopsis, plotting it backwards, or doing the classic roman numerals thing.
    Good luck with whichever one(s) you choose!

    P.S.: love your blog

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  3. I use the last one with my brother. :3 it really helps me out so I could continue my story. I have a journal dedicated to just writing my thought process of my story. I write as I plan because I found out by doing it I create new ideas. I think that I could always edit later so I plan at the same time as writing my story:3

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  4. I use the last one with my brother. :3 it really helps me out so I could continue my story. I have a journal dedicated to just writing my thought process of my story. I write as I plan because I found out by doing it I create new ideas. I think that I could always edit later so I plan at the same time as writing my story:3

    ReplyDelete