Today we are talking about outlining—but not as you so often see it.
With this outlining method, you outline your story as you go.
“How is that possible?” I hear all you hardcore planners out there say.
Well, let me start at the beginning.
I was introduced to this idea in a video Author Kristen Martin posted to her YouTube channel some time ago. If you haven’t seen her before, she is the queen of productivity. She writes her Amazon best-selling books in just 2 months! I know…madness!
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Before I had watched Kristen’s video, it had never occurred to me to outline my novel as I wrote it. Up until that point, I had thought of an outline as a plan that you made before you began writing.
What I hadn’t considered was the fact that an outline is simply a condensed version of your story—and as such, you can write an outline before, during or after you have written your novel. With this in mind, I decided to try this method of outlining out for myself.
And, I am so glad I did. It has made writing 100% easier and quicker.
First, I am going to run through two major points:
- How I use this method of outlining to write my book
- Why it helps and increases productivity
Then, at the end of this post, you can download my FREE Outlining Template so you can try this method out for yourself.
In my previous blog post, I ran through how to outline your novel from beginning to end using a simple 3 Act structure. If you missed that post, you can read it here. While these outlines help you plan out the direction your story will take, often times they will not accurately represent the first draft of your story once it’s completed.
The characters/settings/scenes in our stories can unexpectedly take our story on a different path; new ideas for secondary characters, obstacles and conflicts can arise mid-scene; or, as we spend more time in our worlds and with our characters, sometimes we decide to make some major changes to our plot.
While this experience is both wild and wonderful, it can make keeping track of all the events/details in your story difficult to keep track of. This is where your second outline comes into play.
At the end of each writing day, write a brief summary of what happened in the scene/s that you wrote. In my outlining worksheet, I write down a sentence or two under the following headings.
This number may change during the editing process as I move scenes around, but I include it just so I have a rough idea of where it fits into the story.
What is the purpose of the scene? Is it to reveal a plot twist or is it to develop a budding relationship between two characters? Each scene should have a clear purpose. If it doesn’t, it’s a sign that you should either go back and add something or cut it completely.
Which characters are in this scene?
What characters were mentioned in this scene?
Upcoming Events Mentioned
This could be anything from a party, meeting, date, birthday or seasonal holiday.
The name of a country, island, city, town, village, restaurant, school (you get the idea) that was mentioned in the scene.
Where the scene takes place
Date + Time of day
When the scene takes place
What is the weather like? Something as simple as describing the weather can add a layer of depth to your story.
This helps you see the pacing of your novel. Is the scene action-packed, romantic, building up to a larger event? If there are too many slow or action-packed scenes close together, it may be an indication that you need to switch some around.
A brief explanation of what happens in the scene
To use however to wish. I tend to use this space to write down some things that I should add or expand upon in the next draft.
Why should you spend your precious writing time logging everything you are writing? There is a myriad of reasons. Here’s a few of them:
- You will spot plot holes, inconsistencies and lagging scenes 10x faster
- Editing will be quicker and easier
- You can test out moving around scenes without compromising your manuscript
- You can review what you wrote the day before in seconds, helping you jump back into writing faster
- You will have a clearer picture of what scene you need to write the following day
- You will have an accurate reference guide for your story so far
- You will reflect on what you have written (content not writing quality) at the end of each day. This will help improve your pacing, character development and overall writing.
Download your FREE Outline As You Write worksheet Novel-Outline.docx. No sign up necessary. Just click and go.
Did you like this post? Have any requests for future content? Let me know in the comments.