If you have ever interacted with me on social media or in person, it may come as a big surprise to you that I’m super data- and process-oriented. *sarcasm* I know! The woman who breaks everything down into percentages and goals (see any of my book pages) is data-oriented? SHOCKER. It permeates into everything that I do, including all parts of the writing process. I’ve had a few people ask about plotting/outlining, so I thought I would share my process.
My outlining process is actually more of a multi-step program. (Again, shocker.) It helps me stay organized and feel accomplished. The first thing I start with is what I dub “plotting.” This is where I just brainstorm cool ideas that I want to go in my book and scribble them into an unordered list in my story book. During this, I’m also usually researching broad topics related to my book.
Big Picture Outline
After getting a good list and a good idea of what my novel is going to be about, I make a big picture outline. This looks different for each book, but generally it’s one or two pages where I put my earlier notes in order and figure out the overall structure of the book. I plot things like clues, emotional journeys, and main turning points. I usually use this to help me write my synopsis later on.
This is where it gets tricky/fun/exciting/terrifying. For every scene in my book, I write on a single index card. I detail the POV character, the location, the time and date, and any notes I have for that scene. Here’s a sample card from the book I’m currently working on. (Sorry for the poor quality. My phone doesn’t have the best camera.)
This could include what I want to achieve with this scene, the plot points to cover, how my character is feeling, any snips of dialogue that come to me–basically, anything I want to remember when I finally get to writing that scene. I also number them to help me know about how long my book will be (and in case I drop them and they scatter). Then I read through them a few times, adding in new scenes or fixing red herrings I forgot to resolve. I also read them aloud to my husband (also an author), so he can provide reader feedback on things I probably have missed.
My whole plotting and outlining process takes me about two and a half months, which may seem like a lot to some, but this helps me stay grounded in my book. I usually don’t write myself into a corner, and I don’t get writer’s block because I know exactly what’s going to happen next. However, I do allow myself the freedom while writing to change my previous ideas, because that’s how fiction feels like reality.
Do you plot/outline differently? Do you not do it at all? Let me know in the comments!