I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November. My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.
That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel. And some reminders of what TO DO.
One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.
Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.
So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.
My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.
- Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
- She meets a strange man
- he lives on a stick in a cookie field
- he is directionally challenged
- They walk down a crunchy road
- They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
- the frog is deeply insecure
- strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog
This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example). Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.
Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.
The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction. Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.
There are a few ways you can outline. One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll. Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program. Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.
Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters. To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.
However you outline, I am interested. Do you use details? Bare Bones?
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