Today, I’m going to tell you three different ways to outline.
1) The Bare Bones Method
What I call the “Bare Bones Method” is when the story is written down but the concepts are barely or not fleshed out at all.
If you are interested in knowing how to do this method, here’s how I did it:
Title: Chronicles of the North, Book # 1: “Behind the Door of Many Runes”
Genre: Action/Adventure/ Romance
Summary: Follow the tale of Lucille Sari, a young woman who discovers an ancient kingdom with a tragic past behind the Door of Many Runes: Winter’s Heart. On her journey, she is burdened with the revenge of a demon and with an abandoned throne at stake; she must call upon her two wolf guardians, Silver and Akoto, for help.
Was the throne reclaimed or did darkness prevail?
(Story begins with a page in Lucille’s journal. Story then switches to Lucille before the journey.)
Fifteen-year-old Lucille Sari dreamt of an abandoned castle, not knowing she has an inheritance: A sapphire-stone castle far in the Northern Point of the Compass. Mishaps bring her to ruin of a castle. Her guardian, Akoto, a man trapped in wolf form by an ancient spell, had a dark role to play with the destruction of this castle. She is taken to a shrine, where a goddess of the hunt speaks to her about a prophecy.
A few weeks later, on the borderline between the end of the fall equinox and beginning of winter, a red light begins glowing around a ring and is humming. Lucille is warned not to touch the ring, but curiosity beckons her to touch it. It flares with a burst of red flame and Lucille is plunged into a dream (Dream-like vision) and learns the catastrophic history of the North…
And so on and so forth. As Donald Maass says in his novel, Writing the Breakout Novel: “The best outlines relate the whole story in miniature, and include scraps of setting detail, characterization and dialogue, which nicely highlight the story’s turning points. Outlines are most effective when they are in the present tense and third person, regardless of the tense and person of the novel.” (pg 253)
2) The Script Method
If you break your novel up into a script-like format what would it look like? Probably a little something like this:
Chapter 1: An Unfortunate Case
Present Day (late afternoon)
Judy, a cop in her late thirties, is looking over the body of a murdered teenager. The teenager is her own daughter. The daughter is wearing a bloodied black hoodie and there is a large gash in her stomach. She is naked below the waist. Judy remembers the last words she and her daughter exchanged.
Flashback (night before):
Judy is sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in a robe. Her daughter comes down the stairs, dressed in that same hoodie and a pair of jeans. She tells Judy she will be home late. Used to her daughter’s late studying nights, Judy thinks nothing of it, but only says “Be careful.”
Judy turns away from the body and…etc.
This method allows for you to order scenes and keep the novel on track. I haven’t tried this method out, but who knows, it might work for those who are big on organization and for these novels that jump around in time a lot.
3) The Bullet Point Method
The “Bullet Point Method” is fairly simple. This is a method that, for me that has become a lifesaver when planning future scenes and, sometimes, entire chapters. And, simply put it’s a chapter in brief bullet points, similar to the “Bare Bones Method”, but even less specific. It allows for total creativity flow without the feeling that you’re writing the whole story right then and there.
So…what method(s) works for you?