When an idea comes to me it's like a movie. It's like a movie I've already seen, and now I just have to write down the scenes. But, I never used to do this. I figured since I saw it already in my head, that when I sat down to write, it would come to me. WRONG!
My first novel, REDWOOD BLOOD, was the one I made all my mistakes in, including not outlining. It took me about two years to write it because I kept forgetting where I was, what was happening, and where I was headed. But, I was against outlining. I thought it boxed me in.
After rewriting RB 12 times, now I understand why writers use outlines. And I know I can't get boxed in because I am the one who can change the outline whenever it pleases me.
When I decided to move on from RB and write a new novel, THE LINK, I used an outline. It came from the book 90 Days To Your Novel. The author, Sarah Domet, showcases a few great outlines and I chose one of them to use as my own.
I've just finished TL, and I wrote it in less than a year. Really worked on it for about 90 days. Thanks Sarah! And, it will be much easier to revise because I didn't write myself into dead ends or add plots part way through, because I used my outline.
I've set it aside, and will be revising it soon. But, in the mean time I've started a 3rd novel, FLESH and BONE (working title), and I am using an outline, but I've altered my previous one adding setting points from Scrivener (an awesome writer's tool), to be more useful for how I write now. I'll show it to you below.
But first, why should you outline your novel?
- You'll see dead ends before you write a whole chapter
- Consistency with character: clothing, setting, attitude
- Plot Holes: you'll notice these before you begin
- Not enough characters: this will show up too
- Too many characters: it will look confusing to you and daunting to write
- Lack of a good ending: will be right in your face before you write yourself there
- Lack of a great middle: This is where a lot of writers stumble...you'll see it and be able to change it
- If you can't get through writing an outline, how will you get through writing a whole story?
- It will save you time!
- It will save you time!
- It will save you time!
- It will save you time!
Example of my Outline for Flesh & Bone:
Scene 1: Dialogue / Action
Characters: Payton / Allegra / Rafe / James
Season: Fall / Senior year of school is starting for Payton
Setting: Huge House / Mansion / Payton’s home / her bedroom / kitchen
Purpose: To introduce the characters and show the struggle between Payton and parents and animalia
Unique Features: Expensive kitchen appliances : Wolfe / Sub-Zero : Cold feeling : everything marble / white and blue
Plot: Payton is being harassed or bullied by her parents into getting more animalia for college. Father says she won’t get in without it. Mother is embarrassed by her lack of it. Says her friend’s daughters are all animaled. Why won’t she just do it? Mother threatens to kick her out when Payton asks her what she said back to her friends. Father does not stand up for her. Payton runs off to her bedroom, where a note comes under her door. At first she thinks it’s from her Mother, an apology since it’s on her paper, but it’s not. It’s from an anonymous sender wanting to tell her the truth about animalia, and wants to meet in her 7th stall garage spot.
Sights: James (Jimmy) makes breakfast in the background
Father is constantly groomed by his prehensile tail
Mother plucks feathers from her head
The kitchen is straight lined, white marble with blue kitchen cabinets
Sounds: Cracking of quail eggs / Popping of bacon / toaster pops up
Vacuuming of the maids in other rooms
Smells: bacon / spices / coffee
At Stake? Payton’s relationship with parents
Payton’s relationship with her school friends
Payton’s relationship with her world
Scene 2: Action / Dialogue
Characters: Payton / Jimmy
Setting: Payton’s Bedroom / 7 Car Garage in the empty stall
Purpose: To reveal the horrible treatment of the animals who are used for the parts humans now graph on themselves. To get Payton on the side of the movement. To show some interest in Jimmy as more than a friend
Unique Features: Payton’s bedroom is like the size of 3 regular bedrooms. She has a flat screen TV, and the newest electronics lying around. Her closet is huge too, filled with the most expensive shoes and clothes. And she has tons of jewelry. In the garage, Payton’s favorite car, her Grandfather’s is now missing. The stall is empty. Other expensive cars are around, but the lights aren’t working. The place is unusually hot too, like the temperature control has been turned off.
Plot: Jimmy has a maid send a note under Payton’s door. He wrote it on her mother’s letterhead. He does not sign it, but he knows she will know it’s from him. Payton waits until her parents leave, and then she heads to the garage to meet Jimmy. Wondering what he’s gotten himself into now - she knows he’s joined the movement. He scares her jumping out from behind a car. He’s serious, more serious than he’s ever been about getting her to join. He tells her about the animals. He tries talking first, but then he shows her the rabbit. A small bunny, tied down and being injected with metal for a 13-year-old girl’s birthday animalia. Payton cries for Jimmy to stop it, she can’t bare the poor thing suffering. He puts it out of it’s misery with a hammer, right in front of her. She runs away.
Sights: Expensive clothes, shoes, things in Payton’s room. Then amazing old cars. The metal cage of the rabbit. The hammer. The death.
Sounds: Shuffling of maids, always around. The slamming of the front door as her parents leave. Maybe one of her Mom’s friends asks about the situation and her Mom makes a mean joke? The quiet of the garage, no air conditioning? The squeals of the rabbit.
Smells: Lilacs, flowers always in her purple room. Cleaning products. Oil of the cars. Jimmy’s smell (gives Payton butterflies).
At Stake? Payton’s friendship with Jimmy. Payton making a bad decision to join the movement and getting caught.
Scene 3: Action
Characters: Payton / Allegra
Setting: Mother’s office / Mother’s Bedroom / Payton’s Bedroom
Purpose: To get Payton kicked out of her house. To bring mother vs. Daughter to a head.
Unique Features: Mother’s office is all wood, brought in from Africa. Payton has always loved it, the way the warm wood shows all it’s imperfections and that’s why it’s beautiful. Why can’t her parents see her as a beautiful imperfection? Mother’s bedroom is like a house in itself. Her closet is multiple rooms linked together with mirrors everywhere.
Plot: Payton runs away from Jimmy and the dead rabbit. She slips on glass in the hallway. It came from her Mother’s office. She goes to see what happened, figures one of the staff broke something. But the whole office is ransacked. Her mother’s animalia trophies lay smashed on the ground. Payton is freaked out, she grabs one, and runs to her mother’s room first. Calling her parent’s names. It’s also ransacked. Jewelry is missing, her box smashed. Clothes are torn and thrown about. Payton, still holding the broken trophy runs to her room next. It’s fine. Nothing broken, nothing missing. She hears her mother scream downstairs, and then the clacking of heels. Another scream, and Payton is running toward her, still holding the trophy. Allegra stops dead, and accuses Payton of doing this. How could she be so cruel after everything has always been given to her. She kicks her out. Payton throws the trophy. Allegra cradles it like a baby. Payton leaves. She’s going to Jimmy’s. She’s going to join the movement. She doesn’t need this anymore.
Sights: Payton crying about the rabbit. Glass on the marble floor. Trashed office. Trashed bedroom. Jewelry. Ripped clothes.
Sounds: None - no maids, no vacuuming. Mother’s screams. Heels on the marble.
Smells: broken perfume bottles in mother’s room
At Stake? Trust between Payton and Mother. Trust between Jimmy and Payton. Who did this?
There are many ways to outline your story.
All you need to do is Google Outline a Novel
and you'll get a ton of answers. Feel free to
use my outline. But, I suggest you tweak it to
fit how you write.