Plotters are the kind of writers who like to work with an outline. Most of them work on their outline extensively before they dive into their first draft. Don’t think you’re not a plotter if your outline is less than a page, but also don’t feel bound by the term ‘plotter’. Use these tips and come back next week to see my five tips for pantsers. Maybe those can help you as well.
Write the outline
Here’s an open door. As a plotter, it’s almost a given that you write an outline before you start writing. I won’t tell you how to write an outline since everyone has their own method. Some write extensive outlines which are longer than the whole book. Other write down one sentence for a scene or three for a chapter. I don’t know your style or what you’re comfortable with. You have a month to find that out.
Here are a few posts on outlining by published authors:
Jerry Jenkins – How To Outline A Novel
K. M. Weiland – 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story
Joanna Penn – Outlining Your Novel: How and Why
C. G. Drews – How To Outline Your Novel (Without Biting Your Head Off)
Create smaller subgoals
I divided my outline into chapters and scenes and used those as smaller goals. I noticed that striking off a goal boosts motivation, so why not do it regularly?
Take 100 words of your outline to turn into 1000 words for your manuscript. This will be a guideline for the smaller goals. How good does it feel to check off three goals instead of looking at that giant 50k deadline at the end of the month? Be sure you reward yourself something appropriate. This is an excellent motivator.
Use a notebook
Take a notebook and use it for your NaNo-project. Write down your outline and the rest of your research. Create a timeline and a list of all the characters. Maybe have a list of spare names for when you need a character. It’s easy to look something up while you’re preparing when you have everything together. Make sure that you keep the notebook with you at all times. Inspiration comes at the most inconvenient times.
If you don’t want to use a paper notebook, use a cloud-based service to keep all of your notes together, regardless of platform or location. I often wrote down something during my commute and edited it later during my lunch break.
Cast your characters
Use real or fictional people to cast your characters. Just for the looks or for their character. This is a fun exercise. It also helps you with writing at a later stage. Describing their looks is easier with a picture and in tough situations, you can ask yourself what your casted character would do.
This is a great way to trigger your brain to think about your story. The visual stimuli can help you explore your story. Your characters might reveal a little more about themselves as well.
Don’t be afraid to stray from your outline
This might go against your grain as a plotter, but sometimes your characters don’t do what they want you to do. Or the path you picked just doesn’t turn out to the best way. Even if you have an outline, don’t be afraid to take a side path and explore your options. Sometimes the best ideas come late. Even adding a subplot later might enrich your story.
October is ‘NaNo Prep’-month on Narratess. Come back next week for more tips on how to prepare for a month of writing on steroids.