Saturday, October 28, 2017

How to Outline Your Novel in a Day


The story of my NaNo success always seems to look like this:

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. Though she knew that it was fast-approaching, she also forgot (probably because she wanted to avoid doing an outline).
You see, this little girl was a plantser, meaning that she loved to pants, but she needed to plot. And so, when the first day of NaNo arrived, she ran around screaming and calmly ignored the task that lay before her.
"I'm outlining," she told her friends, when they inquired after her delay (in truth, she thought she was outlining; she still worked hard at school and Life™, and outlined once or twice a week).
Eventually, the month ended, and the little girl had yet to write a single word of her NaNo project. And so she ran around screaming and calmly ignored what had transpired. 

Sound familiar? I AM TOTALLY THAT LITTLE GIRL, BTW. If you've ever been that little girl (or boy), too -- or MAYBE YOU'RE THAT CHILD RIGHT NOW??? -- then congratulations! Because, despite the fact that Life™ (school, acting, church, volunteer work, and a new job) has commanded I refrain from NaNo this year, I have developed a sure-fire plan for preparing for NaNo last-minute (think outlining). All you need is one full day to yourself: no school, no work, no chores, no distractions. And the best part? You can be done before teatime.

(A quick note, before I get to the good stuff πŸ˜‰: this post was inspired by Jill Williamson, who shared her outlining process at #RealmMakers2017. The card labels and whatnot were entirely her advice! πŸ˜πŸ’œ)


You need:
  • One full-ish day of freedom
  • Fourteen to eighteen 5x8 index cards
  • One pencil/pen
  • One eraser / vial of white-out
  • Your sources of inspiration; maps, Pinterest boards, blog posts, playlists... whatever makes you happy 😁
  • This blog post πŸ˜‰


Label your cards as follows:
  1. Beginning
  2. Inciting Incident
  3. Second Thoughts
  4. Act I Climax
  5. Obstacle A
  6. Obstacle B
  7. Midpoint Twist
  8. Obstacle C
  9. Disaster
  10. Crisis
  11. Act II Climax
  12. Act III Climax
  13. DΓ©nouement (Wrap-Up)
  14. End

Note that, by the time you get around to writing what actually happens on your cards, you may need to re-number them.


Trust me. You'll need it.*

*And no, this does not count as teatime.


Now that you're armed with warm tea and your fourteen cards, start identifying. You already have at least a slight idea of where your novel is going, right? Because it's totally okay to label your cards out-of-order! And it's totally okay to take a five-minute break to brew some more tea and come back, too. πŸ˜‰


Refueling can be counted as a lunch break, as taking a walk, as grooming your cat... but try to avoid using the internet unless it counts as research / help outlining. You're in the zone, and we don't want you to fall out of it. πŸ’œ


Now that all your key scenes' roles are identified, do one last read-through. Everything makes sense, right? Though it may be hard, the flow and current make sense?


You're finished, you've revised, you're excited... now all you need to do is write that novel! So, this deserves celebration. Treat yourself to ice cream. Now that it's teatime, have some more tea! Re-watch Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban. Just chill, and get some sleep, too. πŸ’•

Thank you so much for reading, my sweet Dragons! Just so you know, I'm totally rooting for you this NaNoWriMo. 😊

Since I totally missed posting this last weekend, I think I'll be back tomorrow with my October Highlights (better late than never, right?). I'm still trying to get the hang of reincorporating blogging into my it's-not-summer-anymore lifestyle. 😎

What's your #NaNo2017 project, Dragons? Any new blog posts of yours that you'd like to share with me?


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  1. *whispers* You're my favorite person right now, Liv. Just...I NEEDED THIS SO MUCH AND YOU'RE THE BEST. xD

    I haven't officially decided to do NaNo (psshhh, we all know I'm going to do it), but I can relate hardcore to That Little Girl. :P I LITERALLY HAVEN'T PLOTTED AT ALL AND IT'S ONLY 4 DAYS TILL NOVEMBER. *pulls out hair*

    Ahem. Now I just need to work super hard to finish all this homework so I can devote a whole day to plotting. ;)

  2. Gah! I'm such a planster, and I have that Life problem too. I need to add this post to Posts for Further Reference (that is growing like crazy right now...)


  3. AAAAHHHHHH, LIV! I LOVE THIS!!! I've already outlined my NaNo novel but I toootally bookmarked this post for future reference. The list of things to label each card is BRILLIANT.


  4. THANK YOU FOR THIS. I am mildly panicking over here because I only have a halfway outline with sloppy structure and I just...*flails* But this is AWESOME. I'm totally using this! ^_^

  5. I needed this!!! Thank you so much!! I'm not even doing NaNo, but trying to reach a self-inflicted deadline of next summer could drive me crazy. (I used self-inflicted on purpose because deadlines are a pain.) This is beautiful. I will be keeping this post in my bookmarks. I will need it. :D

    As for blog posts to share, nothing at the moment. But my wrap up goes up Wednesday. Can't wait to see your wrap up. :D


  6. I was totally ahead of the game and worked on my synopsis (I don't outline) for my NaNo novel earlier this month. So I was very proud of myself.

    Until I realized there is this character who is presenting some very messy timeline and plot I spent last night panicking and trying to fix it...

    I've never tried using cards (or anything else) to work out the "inciting incident" "obstacles" "twist" and so on. Maybe I'll try it next year.

    Happy NaNo!

  7. *sees post title in my catch-up blog reading list* *clicks so fast computer breaks*
    I'm completely pantsing and it drives me CRAZY. So I'll definitely try your idea xD
    - Jem Jones

  8. dude what? I always thought writing a novel was like "um I have an idea so I'll just write everything down and we'll see what happens next"- I didn't know there were outlines involved? I mean if I'm probably smart enough to think of that if I think hard enough but like that still kinda blows my mind. XD

    Anyway! I love the design of your blog! Loving the forest. :) I learned about your blog through the Christian reviews group on Goodreads, and I'd love it if you would check out mine too! No pressure if you're too busy/not interested though. xP


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