This One Is For the Plotters

For those of you plotting your novel, you’re probably wondering, well, how do I do this?  Is it like outlining an essay or a project (with all of those bullet points and sub-points), or is it something more fluid? Well, the good news is, it’s that and everything in between!

Several authors have developed their own outlining methods over the years and have shared their experiences with the internet.  This has caused much rejoicing for several writers since they found these methods working for them as well, however with the internet being the beast it is, just about every method imaginable can be available at your fingertips with a brief Google search, and in the end, it all comes down to what you, as a writer, feel most comfortable with.

Here are a few methods with a very quick description of each:

Sticky Notes/Notecards
Yes, Sticky Notes.  Write all of your brilliant ideas down for your novel.  You have some vague ideas of what you want, but you can’t really decide the order yet.  Notecards and sticky notes are good for this. You can move your ideas around as much as you want to get the desired structure for your novel.

Chapter Summary
Basically, the chapter in a nutshell. This gives you enough of a preview of what you need to write for the chapter that you can still write on the fly while still holding to the main purpose of the chapter. It’s also useful because if something unexpected happens in your chapter it’s not like you were committed to precise details.

The Literal Outline
I’m calling this one a literal outline because it’s like a good old fashioned essay outline. Each chapter is bullet pointed with details as to what’s going to happen in each chapter. This may be more useful for people who are more detail oriented, or even for people who may tend towards forgetfulness and need something to jog their memory.

Snowflake Method
The idea is you start out with a sentence describing your novel. As you progress, you increase the scope and ideas in your novel.  The idea here is that as you expand upon your premise and develop the conflict and characters, you can catch plot holes a lot easier than say, revising a full first draft. For more specifics, you can visit this site.

Three Acts
Some people believe that the best written stories are easily divided up into three acts. This helps control the pacing of the novel so that your inciting incident, climax, and resolution all show up when they’re supposed to. This method is popular enough that some writing programs have actually integrated this three-act method into the program’s set up.

There are more methods out there that novelists have talked about if you follow the discussion by searching “Novel Outlining Methods” on Google. Maybe none of these methods work.  Maybe you need to create your own methods to organize your novel.  These solutions work for many, but these are hardly “one size fits all” methods that will carry you into a successful novel. Test, see what works and what doesn’t. In the end, it has to be a method you’re comfortable with, you understand and that is effective in achieving a successful, functioning first draft.

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