Ever since I've outlined for my current WIP, I've become a convert. I believe that outlining is the best way possible to plan your novel during the prewriting stage. Previously I either did not outline, or I did it in a half-assed sort of way. I decided to start outlining because I felt like I needed some sort of structure to my novels. If you feel the same way, but don't know where to start, read below to get some insight.
Again, outlining helps you get a structure for your novel. Now, it isn't for everyone, but for those of us that need "directions" or a map of how to write our novel, it's perfect. Now, by directions, I am talking those you write yourself. An outline serves as a guideline of what to write and when.
- The Skeleton Method
- Typically taught in schools and includes Exposition, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
- The Hero's Journey
- Created by Joseph Campbell, this method can be seen mostly in adventure and drama, although it can be applied to other genres.
- The Heroine's Journey
- An adaptation by Maureen Murdock of the Hero's Journey, adjusted for women.
- The Beat Sheet
- A scriptwriting method that can be adapted to novels, created by Blake Snyder. Contains a lot of action due to the screenplay nature.
- The Snowflake Method
- An in-depth method created by Dr. Randy Ingermason which includes a good amount of prewriting.
How to Outline if You've Never Outlined
If you've never outlined, this can be hard. You have an idea of a novel in your head and you want to just write it. But be patient, my friend. Outlining is important. Take your time. I outlined for about three weeks, redrafting my outline several times until I was happy with what I had. Well, kind of. I am not completely satisfied with my current outline and need to tweak it a bit. You will find that may be true for you. You will thank yourself later in the writing stage.
Changing your outlining method midway through can be complicated. Choose one of the outlining methods above, or another one you've found that appeals to you, and stick to it. These have been time-tested by other writers, which gives credit to their popularity.