How My Current Outlining Method Works
Today I’m going to be using my outline for Ivy Introspective to show y’all how I plan for NaNoWriMo, outlining-wise. My current outlining method is my current favorite, obviously, and I hope it’s helpful to you!
Next week I’m hoping to fill you in on some non-outlining ways to prep for NaNo, but an outline is going to be one of your most important tools during November, so you definitely need to think about it.
So let’s get right into it so you can get right into NaNo prep!
How My Current Outlining Method Works
(broken down step-by-step for your convenience)
Step 1: Get a Basic Road Map
A basic road map, for me, is basically the bare-bones details of the plot. Oftentimes I’ll use basic story structure principles to get my main points in place (e.g. first plot point, midpoint, third plot point, climax, resolution, and all points in between!).
I didn’t save mine word-for-word, but it would have looked something like this:
Note: I did remember most of my big plot holes, so this is pretty much exactly what I had, except I added in a few more thoughts in the middle which were scattered here and there.
- First Act: Ivy is struggling to fit in at her new home,
- 1st Half of Second Act: Ivy goes to McCale House, learns music, hangs with Violet, stuff happens.
- Midpoint: ???
- 2nd Half of Second Half: More of that all.
- Third Plot Point: I don’t know, but a low point for Ivy’s self-esteem.
- Climax: Violet and the cliff and all that.
- Resolution: [censored]
As you can see, I don’t have all the details, but I did have a solid climax and resolution, and I did have at least the foundational elements – the beginning, most of the middle, and the end.
And then I fleshed it out to this more detailed point-by-point outlining method:
Step 2: Detailed, Fleshed Out Version
- Hook (0%): Ivy is being mildly verbally abused by a maid because her parents hired out her care for the time being, basically.
- First Half of First Act (0-12%): Set up the scene for everything. Guests arriving, parents easily distracted, Mrs. Chattoway interested in helping but unsure how to.
- Inciting Incident (12%): Ivy [does something that makes her parents seriously concerned for her safety].
- 2nd Half of First Act (12-25%): The decision to send Ivy to McCale House, all the prep, stuff that happens before that.
- First Plot Point (25%): Ivy leaves for McCale House.
- 1st Half of Second Act (25-50%): Arrives at McCale House, meets everyone, starts with therapy, learns about Violet, becomes intrigued by her and wants to help.
- Pinch Point #1 (37%): Ivy realizes how sad Violet is but also that really she isn’t wanted when it comes to comforted her—it’s not her concern, basically.
- Midpoint (50%): Music is introduced.
- 2nd Half of Second Half (50-75%): Deepens relationship with Violet and starts to actively reach out to her. Of course music continues being a thing.
- Pinch Point #2 (60%): Ivy comforts Violet during a tough time.
- Third Plot Point (75%): [Censored for spoilers, but I did finally figure it out. It’s a huge low point for Ivy and disrupts her goal – which is to find a purpose – in a major way, causing her to feel lost and hopeless to an even deeper degree than she started at.]
- 3rd Act (75%-95%): [Also censored, but Ivy overcomes her fears and doubts and makes herself move forward while we continue foreshadowing our final battle.]
- Climax (95%): [details censored, but Ivy confronts the main conflict and perhaps she triumphs and perhaps she doesn’t. What do I look like, a genie who grants my character’s every wish? 😝]
- Resolution (100%): [details censored but all those little leftover plot threads are neatly tied up in perky little bows!]
Note that I DID cut down on details to lessen spoilers, but you can definitely see what I’m doing. Just the main points. The things that I know I need to be strongest.
Resources for Last Two Steps
- K.M. Weiland’s Story Structure Database
- The Secrets of Story Structure (complete series)
- Five Reasons You Should Outline (has links out to a bunch more resources)
Step 3: Record Any Major Notes
After I finish with the plot beats, I like to take a break and work on some other details.
In other outlines (I’ve worked on several in the last thirty days or so), I’ve made a brief list of characters, who needs development, and other details I’ll probably forget mid-draft, but that wasn’t so important for Ivy Introspective.
So instead I wrote down things that I was probably going to forget while drafting.
I of course didn’t include all the problems in the above image because I didn’t want you to know I have problems. 😝 But this basically gave me some notes to consider while I worked on the outline – and will give me some details as I work on the first draft!
These notes would be a lot different for most since I’m rewriting, sort of, rather than writing a basic first draft. But I am intending to tear apart the snippets I am saving, so it’s basically like writing a new draft.
And then came time to flesh it all out …
Step 4: Fleshing It Out
You didn’t think it’d be that easy, now, did you? 😉 Really, though, it’s time to go from point-by-point to scene-by-scene. (Yes, I am obsessive. Yes, my sanity is fine. I think.
Also, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.)
Remember those notes about how the outline works in the image before this one? Check it real quick so you can understand what I did.
But basically, I started with scene one and wrote all the way through the end of the book, beat by beat, action by action, in huge, 300-word paragraphs. (The one above is one of the shorter ones, y’all.)
As I said before, the italics indicate the summary of the whole plot point/section, meaning I know exactly where I am in the entire scope of the plot as well as in that specific scene.
All the way to the end …
(That’s not quite the end, but I forgot to screenshot my resolution, but trust me, it’s there.)
I ended up with 50+ scenes, 7000 words of outlining, and a headache. (Okay, not a headache. More like a writer’s high. But whatever.)
Now … I have never done this before. 😂 Most of my outlines average 25 scenes, 3000 words, and I’m done. Love Once Lost, my 70k+ hot mess which I actually ripped scenes out of toward the end so I could finish faster (… don’t question my methods) had 41 points in the outline and came to about 4k as far as words go (very different method – much more efficient use of bullet points).
So yeah. This is a beast. Most thorough outline I’ve ever done, I think.
But honestly … it needed done. It took me way too long to finish with The Dressmaker’s Secret without an outline, and I don’t want to be lost in no man’s land with IvIn.
Step 5: Sip some Dr. Pepper* and enjoy your NaNoWriMo
That’s it! You’ve done it – you have a perfect, seamless, flawless outline. Your NaNo experience this year is going to be amazing. After all, how can you fail?
*or your other drink of choice if you’re not a fan of the nectar of the gods
A Couple Possible Questions Answered
Do I need to be so thorough?
Nope. I’m a litttttlleee intense for sure.
What if I don’t have those plot points?
Everyone does. Make them up if you don’t have them. 😝
But really. Pick up any book or watch any movie and look at those percentages, and you’ll find those points pretty close to where the book is.
How do I match those plot point percentages up as I write?
You kinda don’t. Just write the scenes you wanted to write as best you can, and the rest is more of a knack thing.
You estimated that this would be a 70,000-word novel. How?
It’s just a guess, but I kind of have an instinct about it. I think I have 40k of new material, essentially.
Does this destroy all the fun of NaNo/writing/etc.?
I honestly think writing is fun enough without having to come up with your plot and characters on the fly. Let’s not make it any funner. 😂 But really, hardcore pantsers aren’t gonna like this, and that’s fine. You do you. (I don’t know how you do you because I would die, but whatever.)
Heyyyyy y’all! Was this post helpful? Would you like to see more like it? Also, am I crazy or am I crazy? (And do you have any questions about this all?) And how do you outline (or do you)? Happy October, by the way!