When it comes to outlining a novel so I can get working, I am probably the most impatient person you know. Take my current WIP for example. I’ve got the story in my head. I know who the characters are, what their arcs will be, what the conflicts in the story are, who and what the antagonists are and I have seen the ending in such vivid technicolour it could almost write itself.
To get me started, I diligently sat down with my three act structure worksheets and started to plot. And then I got fidgety. I got as far as plotting the first quarter of the story (beautifully I might add) and then I just had to start writing, so I did. Without even trying to stop myself. Then, predictably, I got lost. I knew exactly how the story threads were going to come together for the climax of the story, I just wasn’t sure how I was going to navigate to that point without producing another 100,000 word disaster (don’t even ask).
I finally relented today and decided I couldn’t produce another chapter without writing the plot down. Only the basics were necessary to get the next quarter from my head and onto paper. It only took an hour but I was surprised at how tricky it was to do, even though the story is alive in my head.
Since I know you love a sneaky peek into how other authors plot their stories, I thought you might like to see the results of my brainstorming session. Don’t worry, I’ve written a proper outline from this scrawl but since I am a very visual person I need to see the plot laid out like this to keep me on track.
The method I use was devised by Larry Brooks and I constantly refer to his book Story Engineering for inspiration and to pull me back into line. I started my writing life as a confirmed plotter, determined to sketch out every single scene before I write up a single word. That never worked for me. I now find I fall somewhere between plotter and panster, preferring to outline vaguely and flourish within the defined plot points.
I hope you find this either useful or laughable. I’m now going to head off and get started on Q2 with a fully informed map of where I am heading!
How do you outline? Do you bother at all? Do you have any success at sketching every single scene before you start? I’d love to know.
P.S You might also like:
How to write a book in 30 days especially if you’re planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year.