As Preptober rolls around, writers all over the world are gearing up for the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge in November. Whether you’re a seasoned novelist or a first-time participant, one key to a successful NaNoWriMo is a well-thought-out novel outline. In this article, we’ll explore simple and effective ways to outline your novel, providing you with a step-by-step action plan to make your Preptober as productive as possible.
Why Do You Need a Novel Outline?
Before we dive into the outlining techniques, let’s address the question of why you need an outline in the first place. An outline is like a roadmap for your novel, guiding you through the plot, characters, and overall structure. Here are a few reasons why outlining is crucial:
Organization: Outlining helps you organize your thoughts, ensuring your story flows logically.
Efficiency: It streamlines the writing process, preventing writer’s block and unnecessary backtracking.
Consistency: With an outline, you’re less likely to introduce plot holes or inconsistencies.
Motivation: Having a clear plan can keep you motivated and on track during the hectic NaNoWriMo month.
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of outlining your novel with a step-by-step action plan.
Step 1: Define Your Premise and Genre
Action Plan: Spend some time brainstorming your novel’s core idea and genre.
Start your outline by defining the premise of your novel. What is the central idea or concept you want to explore? What genre does your story fit into (e.g., fantasy, romance, mystery, science fiction)? Having a clear premise and genre will serve as the foundation for your entire outline.
Step 2: Create Your Main Characters
Action Plan: Develop your main characters by outlining their backgrounds, personalities, and motivations.
Your story’s characters are the heart of your novel. Take time to create detailed character profiles for your main protagonists and antagonists. Understand their pasts, what drives them, and how they evolve throughout the story.
Step 3: Develop Your Setting
Action Plan: Outline the key locations and world-building elements in your story.
A vivid and well-defined setting can bring your novel to life. Describe the places your story will take your readers and establish the rules of your fictional world if you’re writing in a speculative genre.
Step 4: Plan the Plot Structure
Action Plan: Sketch out the main plot points and subplots.
Now, it’s time to plot your story’s structure. Start with the major plot points, such as the inciting incident, rising action, climax, and resolution. Also, consider any subplots that will add depth to your narrative.
Step 5: Build a Scene-by-Scene Outline
Action Plan: Create a scene-by-scene outline of your novel.
Break down your story into individual scenes. For each scene, jot down a brief description, its purpose in advancing the plot, and which characters are involved. This step will help you maintain a consistent pace throughout your novel.
Step 6: Develop Character Arcs
Action Plan: Map out the character arcs for your main characters.
Consider how your characters will change and grow over the course of the story. What challenges will they face, and how will these experiences transform them? Character arcs add depth and relatability to your characters.
Step 7: Add Conflict and Tension
Action Plan: Identify sources of conflict and tension in your story.
Conflict is the engine that drives your story forward. Think about the conflicts your characters will encounter—both external and internal. These conflicts will keep readers engaged and invested in your narrative.
Step 8: Determine Themes and Motifs
Action Plan: Identify the themes and motifs you want to explore in your novel.
What larger ideas or messages do you want your novel to convey? Themes and motifs can add depth and resonance to your story, giving it a more profound impact.
Step 9: Revise and Refine Your Outline
Action Plan: Review and refine your outline to ensure it’s cohesive and well-structured.
Take a step back and read through your outline as a whole. Does it make sense? Are there any gaps or inconsistencies? Make revisions as needed to create a strong and coherent roadmap for your novel.
Step 10: Set Writing Goals
Action Plan: Establish daily or weekly writing goals for NaNoWriMo.
Now that your outline is ready, it’s time to set specific writing goals for NaNoWriMo. Determine how many words you’ll aim to write each day or week to reach your target word count by the end of November.
Step 11: Gather Writing Tools
Action Plan: Prepare the tools you’ll need for writing, such as a writing software, notebooks, and research materials. Make sure you have all the necessary tools at your disposal. Whether you prefer writing on a computer or by hand, having your resources ready will help you stay focused and efficient.
Step 12: Stay Accountable
Action Plan: Join a writing group or find an accountability partner to stay on track.
Accountability can be a powerful motivator. Consider joining a writing group or partnering with a fellow writer to check in with each other’s progress throughout NaNoWriMo.
Step 13: Start Writing!
Action Plan: Begin writing your novel during NaNoWriMo and stick to your daily or weekly goals.
With your outline in hand and your writing goals set, it’s time to start writing. Remember that perfection can come later during the editing process—your goal for now is to get words on the page.
Step 14: Adjust Your Outline as Needed
Action Plan: Be open to adjusting your outline if your story takes unexpected turns.
It’s common for your story to evolve as you write. If your characters or plot take unexpected directions, don’t be afraid to adjust your outline accordingly. Flexibility is key to successful novel writing.
Step 15: Celebrate Your Progress
Action Plan: Celebrate your achievements along the way.
As you hit milestones, take time to celebrate your progress. Recognize your accomplishments, whether it’s reaching your word count goal for the day or completing a major section of your novel.