Creating an Outline To Write By
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Before I can Scrivathon*, I’ve got to get ready to write! So let me take you deep into my writing lair so you can peek behind the curtains and see into my process.
As autumn comes into full swing, writers worldwide prepare for NaNoWriMo. Some people are planners, some people fly by the seat of their pants (pantsers), me? I’m a plantser!
What’s a Plantser?
I do some light-level outlining, but I don’t consider myself bound by these notes.
I did this for FLESH AND INK (which I’m querying! And have an editor lined up, just waiting for schedules to mesh). But, this time, I looked up “Novel Beats” based on advice from a DragonCon panel.
Now, since I’m writing a sequel, I get to skip a lot of things. I don’t need to design my setting. I don’t need to come up with my characters- physically, personality, skills, backstory. But, if you’re trying to follow these steps, you’ll probably want to have a decent idea of these things so you can figure out where the plot COULD go. What decisions it makes sense for your protagonist to make. What decisions will you antagonist make? Setting and personalities drive the plot.
I took a spreadsheet and numbered chapters 1-21, with page numbers based on an estimated 15 pages per chapter. Since I’ll be working on the sequel to FLESH AND INK, I figured my chapters and page count should be relatively similar.
I researched “Novel Beats”
I ended up on Jami Gold’s Worksheets for Writers. After looking through the different beat sheets, her spreadsheet, based on Jerry Brook’s algorithms, looked pretty straightforward. I downloaded the spreadsheet then plugged in my word count (estimation based on length of my 1st book) to get the following estimates.
This generally follows a 4 act structure. I might end up with a 3 act structure and an abbreviated denouement, but we’ll see.
I filled in one line descriptions of each chapter, paying attention to which chapters have pages that should have beat points. I started off with [the Introduction, the Hook, and establish the major goal]. I ended act 1 with [the antagonist’s forces come fully into play, driving home the goal, stakes, and obstacles…]
I already had a few goalposts in my head, based on Lilyen’s external goals. (I’ll be thinking about ways to incorporate internal ones as well (family/relationships)). For the most part, this was a case of “hmm, to get to X, she’ll need to do Y and Z.”
What about the chapters where I knew the next event, but the beat suggested it should wait?
She’s not the only character! There’s a strong chance this book may end up having 2 regular POVs.
Right now, these are the logical steps to get where I need her. But, books don’t always work like that–characters and the world contain tidbits that you never see coming. Until they matter.
I can’t share all of it with you, some of it gives away the ending of FLESH AND INK, but here are 3 examples.
- My shortest chapter description:
- “Healing (pgs 196-210)”
- My longest chapter description:
- “[X1] seek refuge from [X2], [X3] attack/kill [X1a], capture [X1b], [X2] rages, trapped and convert. (pgs 15-30)” [nouns redacted to prevent spoilers]
- My least helpful description:
- “Denouement” – Yeps. Not quite sure how I’m gonna end this sucker. Luckily, I’m highly unlikely to hit 89,000 words in November, so will take my cues from what I write and figure it out from there.
I finished my outline in about 2 hours and 131 words.
Any other plantsers out there? How do you prepare?
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