writersfriend:

I. Novel Outlining

A novel outline is a story plan, written in the abbreviated form of a traditional outline with headings and subheadings. We’re often taught how to outline a novel in school when we learn how to write book reports. To borrow a theme from Jennifer Crusie’s latest novel, the easiest way to think of it is as a story to-do list.

An outline is valuable in a couple of ways: it creates a map of your novel, so you know where you’re going when you write. Depending on how detailed the outline is, it can also be the foundation or first draft of your synopsis.

An outline need not be lengthy or contain all the details of your story. It can be as simple as Peter De Vries suggested: a beginning, a muddle, and an end.

II. Outline Examples

The beginning of this post is the outline I wrote of it. It’s the sort of outline I personally prefer: simple, concise, orderly, or just the facts, ma’am. Let’s haul out John and Marcia and put some of their story into outline form:

Angel’s Darkness by Temperance Rising — Section Outline

I. Novel Part One

   A. Chapter One: Introduce John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party. 

   B. Chapter Two: John and Marcia prevent thief from retrieving diamond.

   C. Chapter Three: John’s investigation of theft, diamond and Marcia reveal unholy demonic plan.

   D. Chapter Four: John and Marcia discover the truth about each other’s half-blood, which should make them immortal enemies.

   E. Chapter Five: The thief forces John and Marcia to go on the run with the diamond.

Now all of the above are just main chapter points, or the gist of what happens in each chapter. There are no details of how we meet John, Marcia and the thief, or how John and Marcia keep the diamond from the thief, or in what way they discover they were born to be immortal enemies. For that, we do a chapter outline:

Angel’s Darkness by Temperance Rising — Chapter Outline

I. Chapter One

   A. Scene One: John and Marcia meet and have a quickie at the half-blood Halloween party.

   B. Scene Two: A demon thief plants a soul-stealing diamond on Marcia to smuggle it out of the house. 

   C. Scene Three: John pursues Marcia and the diamond, and catches up with her at her house, where the demon is waiting.

   D. Scene Four: John senses evil, convinces Marcia to have coffee with him, and Marcia’s house explodes.

Each of the above points outlines a scene in Chapter One. We have more details now of what happens while we’re being introduced to John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party. This may be as detailed as you want to get with your outline, or you can take it to the next level, which is the scene outline:

Angel’s Darkness by Temperance Rising — Scene Outline 

I. Scene One

   A. John arrives at his friend Bruce’s home for the annual half-blood Halloween party. There in the foyer he bumps into a beautiful human librarian named Marcia.

   B. Marcia doesn’t know anyone at the party but Bruce, who is busy, so John takes her to get some refreshments and chats with her over the punchbowl.

   C. Marcia drinks a cup of punch which she and John don’t know is spiked with half-blood aphrodisiac, and loses all of her inhibitions.

   D. John takes advantage of an adult version of Seven Minutes in Heaven to protect Marcia from the punch-spiker, and ends up having sex with her in Bruce’s coat closet.

Now, you can put them all together, and you have a comprehensive outline:

Angel’s Darkness by Temperance Rising

I. Novel Part One

  A. Chapter One: Introduce John, Marcia, demon thief and mystic diamond at Halloween party.

    1. Scene One: John and Marcia meet and have a quickie at the half-blood Halloween party.

      a. John arrives at his friend Bruce’s home for the annual half-blood Halloween party. There in the foyer he bumps into a beautiful human librarian named Marcia.

III. Keeping It Simple and Useful

When you go to the grocery store, and you look at your shopping list, you see things like eggs, milk, bread, butter, and so forth. You don’t see buy eggs because my honey likes them on Sunday or buy bread for sandwiches for the kids’ lunches, my toast in the morning and grilled cheese on Thursday. You don’t need that information to effectively shop, and you already know it. Plus you might change your mind and decide to use all the eggs to make potato salad, or take the bread down to the lake and feed it to the ducks. 

It’s the same thing with an outline. You just need a list of things that need to happen in the story. How much detail you get into is up to you, but I would keep it as simple as possible, so if you do decide to change something, you can without a major hassle.

If you’re still not sure how you want to outline your novel, try outlining a novel you love by another writer. As with writing a synopsis, it’s usually easier to practice on someone else’s work, because the emotional attachment is different and probably not as intense.

Outlining a novel is becoming your story’s architect, and drawing up plans for what will be built. Before you break ground on your project, make sure you’ve got the blue prints you need to make it a solid construct.


Source: writersfriend