Outlining as a Tool

I’m currently less than 250 words from finishing my NaNovel, and thanks to a snow day, I’ll be finishing my novel later this morning.

It’s unsurprising. I always finish in odd years. (This is my fifth NaNoWriMo attempt.) This year, though, I think I had a helper.

My second NaNo attempt was premeditated. I had a fairly clear idea what i wanted to write about. I laid out my characters and settings thoroughly. I wrote a bare bones outline, assuming I’d fill in the blanks simply enough.

I finally wrapped up that first draft last month, and it’s going to take an ungodly amount of editing to make it readable.

This year, I didn’t really know what i was going to write until mid-October. It was an old story idea that had been hiding out in my writing notebook for a while. I dragged it out, dusted it off, and started planning. By the time I finished, My characters had just enough structure to make them intriguing. My settings had an interesting blend of details. But my plot was covered by an outline that was over 10,000 words long.

The rules for NaNoWriMo say that you can do all the prewriting you want, but you can’t write anything that will actually go in the novel. The outline was in third person and written rather passively. If you’ve kept an eye on my drafted chapters, you’ll note an active, first person perspective.

That means that from a 10,000-word outline has sprung a 50,000 word draft that has almost written itself. When I’ve stalled out, it hasn’t been due to not knowing what was coming next. In some cases, it was actually because I didn’t know how to phrase the next part.

It’s up to you. You can plot through index cards and shuffle them into an outline. You can just draw up an outline. The point is, they can be pretty helpful with in the writing process.

Do I have any ideas for next year? As a matter of fact, this year’s novel has three books that need to follow it, some of which has slowly started being mapped out.


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