how i write

How I outline my novels

Right now I’m outlining my next novel – the second part of my pirate m/m romance trilogy. Outlining is essential to me – no pantsing here, thank you. Plotting takes a lot of time, especially when a lot of research is needed, but I’ve done enough mistakes to know that I can’t do without it. Today I thought I’d share the method I use when I’m outlining a story.

First, I don’t know if it can actually be called a method. After I’ve done all this some more times it can, probably, but right now I still spend the first weeks of a new project being lost and confused about what to do. I’m so relieved I’ve passed that phase, this time around.

The very first thing I do is that I write down everything I know about the story so far. Generally I write down all the little ideas that pop up, so I can go back later and use the ones that are good enough. When I know the beginning and ending I write a brief summary of the story, and then a much lengthier summary. What I want is to identify the main storyline, the major characters, and all the parts where I need more characters and more plot.

The next step is to do a lot of thinking and a bit of research to try and fill all those gaping plot holes. For some reason working titles are also very important to me, so I usually end up thinking of one around this point. I also come up with names for as many characters as I can. Calling them ‘X’ or ‘Y’ during the plotting stage just doesn’t work for me, I need names to get a feel of the character.

After this is done I’m ready to go into detail. First I decide upon a certain number of chapters – just to have something to work with. Then I write down the main event that will take place in each chapter, starting with the beginning and the ending and then just working my way through it until there’s something written after every chapter number.

Then comes the final stage of my outlining, where I write down around eight scenes for every chapter. I don’t know why I’ve settled for the number eight but it works, so I keep doing it. After doing this I go back, arrange the scenes chronologically and decide during which timeframe each chapter takes place. This gives me a detailed plan that’s easy to follow, but I can still add scenes during writing if I need to.

When all this is done I work on my characters, using character sheets mostly but also finding images so I know what they look like. And then there’s all the research, but let’s leave that for another blog post.

Do you outline, or do you prefer to make things up as you go along?