It certainly has been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been struggling with keeping up on my posts, wanting to share thoughts, and not quite finding the time to do so. After receiving feedback from my beta readers a few months back, I locked myself inside a novel-editing-only mental room and I am barely emerging from seclusion now. I’m sorry for the isolation. Polar bear here was in her winter cave, living off of her feedback feast.
Such feast, led me to face one of my worst nightmares. Outlining my novel.
I should have done this long ago, before I ever typed a single word, but I didn’t see the need, and in truth, I didn’t know any better. I thought I had it all mapped out my head, or something. But now that I’ve come to my personal outlining enlightenment moment, let me share what I’ve learned in four simple words: Outline your freakin’ novel!
It will save you so much pain, and it will give you a better product in the end. You want a kick-butt novel, right? Then, let’s work with kick-butt creative techniques that work. I am not talking about outlining every single scene in detail using flash cards and color-coded stickers. Heck, I’m not even talking about outlining every single chapter (though you should have at least a rough idea of the purpose for each). I am simply talking about a simple outline that will show you the overall path of your story and its characters.
I took the time to research quite a few outlining approaches in the past months, and I found one that saved me from going insane. It’s simple, straight to the point, and leaves so much room for inspiration and go-with-the-flow ideas. Some of you may have heard of it, but if you haven’t, let me save you the time. It’s called The Seven-Point System.
This outlining approach revolves around defining the following parts of your novel:
First Plot Turn
Second Plot Turn
Simple right? You have no idea how relieved I felt when I found this, even more so when I applied it to my own story. Now, I could go into a lot of detail about what each point does, how to lay them out, use examples to explain, etc. But I’m not going to. Instead, I am going to refer you to the two best resources on the subject. You can either read about it here, or watch author Dan Wells explain it. Both options explain every aspect better and more in depth than I ever could. Plus, I want you to have the best understanding of this system as you possibly can, and in my polar bear state right now, I truly wouldn’t do it justice. Know this however, I am an emerging author, and as such, I am bound to make rookie mistakes. Don’t let another’s mistakes teach you nothing. Take the time to flesh out your novel, poke it, probe it, chink its armor. Only then can you truly uncover its essence and expose it for others to see.
It took me a long time to get to where I am, to understand the importance of outlining a way for my story to move forward and actually grow. Maybe this was the path I was supposed to take from the beginning, even if I had to go through the excruciatingly painful process of amputating entire sections of my story. I could have probably written three books already with all the time I’ve spent on this one. But none of that matters anymore, because this experience has taught me an invaluable lesson.
Outlining is essential.
Whether you’re stuck with a half-written novel, a finished manuscript with no visible head or feet, or haven’t yet written a single word, let me tell you this. Outlining your novel is the most important step you can take to make your project a success, and keep your brain cells intact. Do it, at the beginning preferably. But even if you’re “finished” as I thought I was, outlining will expose the holes and clear the fog of confusion away. Trust me. I know. If you haven’t outlined your novel yet, stop writing. Don’t type another word. Instead, sit down with pen and paper and outline your story. It will save you time, momentum, and might even save you from giving up.