If my local community college ever created a class called “Outlining 101,” I would be the first to sign up. My sister Rachel has always outlined her novels whenever she had started writing, while I am a pantser, as I’ve mentioned several times on this blog. There is no right way to write a novel, in my opinion, but outlines are nice to have as a map for the story.
With that said, I’m trying to figure out different ways to create some sort of outline for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m really excited about my story idea, and I just want to start writing the damn thing already, but I’m also worried about the story fizzling out. With the rush to write so many words in so little days, I know from experience that the first week excitement can quickly turn into the second week dread. Generally, I free write a rambling blurb for my “outlines,” to try to get my thoughts in order, but this time I did an online search on simple novel outlines.
Holy sugar in a hand basket, there are so many different questions and exercises one can ask and do in order to figure out what direction one’s story is heading. One website asked me to “say what the goal of my story was.” I don’t know, I haven’t written it yet. A second site mentioned listing the forewarnings of the story’s main events. How can I have forewarnings if I’m not sure of the main events? Isn’t that what an outline is for? Another site, amid the usual protagonist goals and setting questions, said if you have a blank spot in the outline, just write “sex.” Uh, my main character is an artificial intelligence… Not sure if he has a sex drive.
One of the search results actually linked me to a 6-month old post on the official NaNoWriMo forums. It was a fairly simple outline that the original author had created and was based as a goal a day for the 30-day writing challenge:
- Intro Normal Life > Who is the Main Character, place, time, world.
- I Know What I Want > What do they want in life, goal, dream.
- I’m Getting What I Want > What’s their plan, how’s it happening right now?
- Inciting Incident > Their plan is ruined by something outside their control.
- I’m Not Getting What I Want > They take in what’s happened, reacting emotionally.
- Why Did This Happen > They examine their process and consider how to get back up.
- Enter Exotic World > Because of whatever happened in 4, they are thrown into an EW.
- I Wanna Go Home >They are in shock, wanting or trying to get back to the old world.
- I Can’t Go Home > They come to the conclusion, that they can’t go back, and look around.
- Woah- WAIT > They become distracted by the new surroundings, then remember their goal.
- Enemy Enter > They discover the new antagonist, that will keep them from their goal here.
- What Now > Depressed about enemy, personal goal, but wondering what to do.
- This May Work > They explore, make friends, maybe unwillingly. Consider options for goal.
- This Isn’t So Bad > They’ve accepted the new world, the friends, the goals, enjoy themselves.
- Enemy Strikes > The enemy threatens their new world/personal goal/something.
- Main Character Fights > The recovery and Main Character decides they won’t stand for this.
- Who’s With Me > Main and supporting characters, band together to take a stand.
- Gear Up > They plan and prepare, for journey/battle/some stand, considering what they know.
- On The Road > They push through, band together, solve problems, put aside differences.
- Enemy Plays > The enemy plays at their weak points, threatening their bond and stand.
- We Can Do This > They come through, feeling beaten, but band together and agree to push.
- Push > They push themselves to be the best they can be and continue on toward the final.
- The Enemy’s Lair > They arrive at the enemies front yard, planning, training, observing.
- Crisis > They move their plans to action and things don’t go as planned. Their lowest point.
- What Went Wrong > Main Character considers their fault, discovering it was their first prob.
- Can’t Give Up > They make their plan for their final ditch-effort to take down the enemy.
- Climax > They put this final plan into action, it seems to be going well.
- We Can Do This* > They in almost shock at their success continue pushing through in a daze.
- Victory > They defeat, save, and/or reach their final goal, being victorious. Notable lesson.
- Resolution > Wrap up the lose ends- go home/review lesson learned/reconcile relationships.
As previously stated, this outline has an original author that is not me. I thought I would share it, in case others need a thought-provoking, simple outline. There’s room in this outline for flexibility (and, as another person on the forum thread said, “Be willing to add ninjas at a moment’s notice, if necessary.”), something that works for me.
After all, if I’m going to use an outline to create a map for my story, my map has enough room for spontaneous detours.