For a month now, you have been mulling over and cultivating your novel idea. You have created a million aesthetic boards, put together the perfect playlist and organized your workspace into a comfy cozy writing haven. You are finally ready to write.
Before you jump into writing that first chapter, you should start with putting together an outline. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but having a roadmap for your book is absolutely essential to the writing process. There are many types of outline templates out there, but for your rough draft I suggest doing a quick bullet point outline. This is a very flexible outline that leaves room for creativity while writing but also keeps you on track to make it to the end of your book. Here’s how you do it.
Start by writing a full summary for your book from beginning to end. Then, break it down by writing chapter by chapter summaries being sure to hit all the highlights. Include things like major plot points, significant character introductions, foreshadowing, snippets of dialogue etc. You can even break it down into scenes within chapters if you want. If I were doing this for Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, the outline might look something like this:
Chpt 1 – Scene One: Introduce the Dursley’s. Give the reader a sense of their character highlighting the fact that they are perfectly normal and do not like being associated with anything out of the ordinary. Follow Mr. Dursley through his day, give him a few strange encounters hinting at what’s to come. Reader learns what he does for a living, his relationship with his wife and son etc. He hears whispers of the Potters.
Scene Two: Albus Dumbledore arrives at Private Drive. Minerva McGonagall is already there in her Animagus form. They have a short exchange about the rumors circulating about the Potters. Dumbledore confirms the worst. Hagrid arrives driving a flying motorcycle and drops off Harry. The three of them leave Harry on the Dursley’s doorstep. Be sure to mention scar on Harry’s forehead.
That’s it! Simply talk through the important bits of your story, without going into too much detail because you want to leave yourself enough freedom to let your story flow out while writing. You just want a general idea of what happens in each chapter so when you finish your outline you can step back and read through it to make sure there are no foreseeable roadblocks in your storyline. Be sure to notate and highlight any subjects that you may need to research in order to write that chapter. For example, if your character has a scene that takes place in a brewery than be sure to research and/or visit a brewery before you get to that chapter.
Once you finish, step away for a couple of days and then come back and read through it again. If everything still makes sense, you’ll be ready for the next step in your process!
Do NOT skip this step, I promise you’ll regret it if you do. Outlines are not the most fun thing to write but it will keep you on track and you’ll avoid writing yourself into a corner or hitting a point in your story where your left thinking now what?
Have you ever used a writing when plotting out a novel? Do you find it useful? Let me know in the comments below! Happy Writing!