Tip of the Day: When you get revision notes from an agent, editor, critique partner or whoever, don’t start in on them right away. Give them a couple of days to sink in. Things somehow always become clearer with a little time.
I don’t outline when I write. At least, I haven’t until now. I’ve always just sat down and started writing so I guess that makes me a “plunger”. Sure, if I see something coming ahead in my book that I don’t want to forget I type up some notes in a blank document and name it something clever like RandomNotes.doc. (Now I have like, thirty of these files but whatever.) My notes are never really in any particular order though. Outlining sounds so hard—like you have to know what you are doing overall throughout the entire book. When I think of outlining I think of thesis statements and roman numerals. Yuck.
But now I HAVE to outline. I’ve actually been working on one for the last two weeks and it’s a bit tough. I didn’t know how to structure it—chapter by chapter? Bullet points? Paragraphs? So I started googling and of course found nothing. I thought maybe someone would have posted an outline of their book online but duh, then they’d be giving away their book for free. So no luck there.
I had to start doing it and see what happened. So I just put chapter 1 and wrote several paragraphs about what happened in that chapter. Then chapter 2 and so on. I don’t know if I’ve done it correctly. I don’t know if this is what editors expect when they ask for an outline. It reads ok to me though so I’m just going to go with it.
Then just now I decided to google again, this time using “writing a fiction novel outline” as the search term and would you believe I got hits this time? Wish I would have used a better search term the first time. I don’t know whether to say yay or damn. Yay if I’ve done it right and damn if I didn’t. I check out a few links and here is one:
This is one posted at writing.com. This is a big “oh crap” if this is what I’m supposed to be doing. Because here they just want you talking about characters and their relationships and obstacles in the novel. It doesn’t look like a straight through outline to me.
Here’s another one. Ok, not so bad. She does mention the chapter-by-chapter thing. Only she says a few sentences for each and mine are more like half a page per chap. But this is the closest to a yay we got.
Now this one just hurts my head. Snowflakes? Really? A) I’m not a fan of snow and B) it sounds like you need to be good with math (was an English major for a reason here) when they mention fractals. Blech. Going further down that page the author talks about the 10 steps of designing your novel. And no offense to the creator but if I had read this before I wrote my first book I may have quit. Talk about overwhelming.
I guess when it comes down to it you just have to do what feels right to you. Like this snowflake method above is right for that author but totally wrong for me. The chapter by chapter synopsis style thing worked ok for me so that’s what I’m going to go with. And cross my fingers that the editor likes it of course.
What about you all? Do you outline your books? And if so, what method works for you?
Kristina, Miss Soon-to-Pub