I’m Learning To Outline. Slowly.

I finished a draft of my novel. I didn’t mention it on here because even though the draft is “finished,” I use that term loosely. I know there’s going to be a lot of editing for this book. I haven’t looked it over, but I’ve made a list of things I remember that I want to fix and that list grows by the day. Keep in mind I haven’t even read over the thing in its entirety yet!

The reason why I haven’t started editing is I want some time away from this book before I dive back in. A ton of sources online recommend getting some distance, which I did for all of last week. I was very unproductive with my writing and that made me sad. Finally, I realized that the obvious course of action is to begin outlining the next book in the series. (It’s going to be a trilogy.) I started that last night and all I have to say is: wow. Outlining this next book is making me realize even more things I need to fix in the first book.

It’s also helping me become a better novel outliner/planner, which is great. I made so many mistakes while outlining that book I just finished. What kind of person groups scenes together that she doesn’t intend to have together in the final version? (I’m embarrassed to say I’m that person.) And if you promise that a novel is science fiction—well, it darn well better be science fiction. (Hence I need to tone down some of the political elements that don’t do much for the story.)

I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh. The draft that I just finished marked the first time I seriously attempted to outline a novel. I had one vague attempt before that. I noticed that even a vague attempt made the writing go faster, so I tried it again. And now that I’m doing it yet again, I am slowly refining the process. I’m putting the scenes in the order I envision them for the final draft. Of course, this may change, but hopefully I won’t need to change as much as with the first book in the series. (Ugh!) I’m also building a timeline into the outline. Beside each scene, I have the day and time of day noted. I’ve found it is very easy to lose track of the overarching timeline of a novel during the writing process, so I want to nail this down early.

I have slowly realized that the more planning you do up front, the better of a draft you can produce the first time around, which makes things easier in the editing stage. This may be an obvious point, but it’s an important one and something that’s very easy to forget.


8 thoughts on “I’m Learning To Outline. Slowly.

  1. If I ever write a novel, it will be by Randy Ingermansson’s Snowflake Method.
    First wirte the main points. Then subdivide each of the points. Then subdivide them. Them subdivide them. And so on until you write points for the specific scenes.


    1. Roman, I’m thrilled you you know about the Snowflake Method. I’ve read the post explaining it and I think I will try it with a future project. I have so many things I want to write, so it’s only a matter of time before I test out another method…


  2. Hey. This is very well written and you have explained your ideas very well. In a way that is most understandable!

    I am fifteen and I’m currently writing my own very first novel.

    It’s a great, time consuming process and it’s great fun!

    Good luck with both of your novels!


  3. Nice work on finishing your first draft! Is it just me or did you knock that out super fast? I’m really glad outlining is working for you, I’m seriously considering it for my next novel – the amount of retro-active plot fixing I’m having to do with the current one is absurd. Any tips you’ve learned from doing this round of outlining you’d like to share like things you will/won’t be doing next time?


    1. Thanks! I don’t feel like it’s fast as I write it, but you’re not the only person who has remarked on my speed, so perhaps I am a fast drafter. 🙂 As for outlining tips, I’d say don’t be afraid to take some time and really flesh things out. Make sure you’ve got a good idea of the novel’s timeline, i.e. what happens when. At least for me, I find that it’s quite easy to lose track of that sort of thing!


  4. Of course you just finished your draft! Once you do the editing, that would be the next draft.

    I’m definitely a planner. Maybe it’s because I’m a software developer and planning out the different pieces make sense to me. Maybe it’s because I tend to write stuff last minute so I don’t have time to go back and re-arranging things. Maybe I like to write in a way that all the pieces come together at the end for some kind of reveal, and I simply can’t do that without some planning in advance. Maybe it’s all of the above. I just have the tendency to plan things out before I write them.

    I’ve never attempted to write something the length of a novel, not to mention a trilogy. But if I ever do, I can’t imagine doing so without figuring out what goes where and when first!


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