We’ve reached the last week of Preptober, writing fam. It’s time now for the final step before actually writing your novel.
It’s time to create your outline.
I have no time for pantsers. Those of you who don’t believe in outlines may go on your merry way. Enjoy your writer’s block and unsatisfying endings. That’s right, I said it. Fight me in the comments if you like.
So let’s get down to it. Don’t worry, this doesn’t have to be done in one day. We’ve got more than a week.
I sometimes find myself getting a bit overwhelmed when I start an outline. By this time I’ve got pages and pages of freewriting, notes, and ideas. It’s a metric shit ton of content that may or may not make it into my novel. So take your time. Don’t try to sort out everything at once. It’s like a puzzle. You don’t drop all the pieces on the table and start shuffling. You take one piece at a time and see where it might fit.
Also like a puzzle piece, it’s best to start with the edges. Or, to drop the analogy, start with the things you know (for now) you want to write. If I’m feeling too overwhelmed, I’ll pick just one thing. One thing I’m sure I want to have in the story. Often it’s the ending. We’ll talk about that more later. But it’s important to have two kinds of scenes to start. You need load-bearing scenes that move the story forward, and you need scenes you’re really excited to write.
Now that you’ve got a start, you can start connecting dots. What has to happen to make these scenes pay off. If someone is dying in the last chapter, what caused that? If we’re looking for a treasure, we need to have a treasure map earlier.
I want to caution you again to not put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that your outline is written in ink, not stone. I always reach a point when writing a rough draft that I have to stop and redo my entire outline. And that’s fine. Remember, the point of writing an outline isn’t to figure out your whole story. It’s to start giving you an idea of the shape of it. Honestly, you might not have the whole story until your third or fourth draft. Maybe even more. So yes, put time and effort into your outline. But remember, you’re not married to it.
While this isn’t for everyone, I insist upon knowing my ending before I start. Even if it might change dramatically. I still have to have an ending before I start writing. It’s the finish line at the end of the trail. When I’m lost in the weeds, and I’m not sure what should be happening, it’s the North Star. My ending is often the first part I write. And if you’re wondering, I already know the ending of my Nano project this year.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a reveal. This year I won’t be writing a novel. Those of you who’ve been loving the first season of AA will be thrilled to hear that I’ll be writing the second season. These episodes will be longer, darker, deeper.
What are you writing for Nanowrimo? Let us know in the comments.