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Types of outlines for a novel
Grab your colored pencils and a few sheets of printer paper, cause we’re going to draw, folks!
Seriously, this one is so much fun.
The Line Outline works especially well if you’re balancing several plots or characters: this outline form gives you a way to visually see how everybody interconnects.
Pick a color for either each character or each plotline. Make sure you create a key for yourself!
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Start with your main character or main plot. Draw a straight line from one short edge of your paper to the other. Then using a neutral colored pencil or a fine-tipped pen, create notch marks for important moments in this particular character’s arc or this particular plot and label each one. Don’t draw in minor plots or events that influence only other characters just yet.
Then pick one of your other colors. Draw another line about an inch below or above your main line. You’ll draw in the same manner as the first line with one exception: if this minor plot or minor character ever interacts directly with your main plot/character, draw the line up or down to meet your main line.
Continue to do this with every character or plot you want to track
By the end, you’ll have a map that looks a bit like the London Underground, but so useful to your story! This is a great tool to track where each of your characters goes, the timing of certain events and pivotal moments, and allows you to see where everybody interacts.
Brain dump outline
I’m not sure if I can technically call this an outline, but I’m going to anyways for the sake of this post.
Braindumps are incredibly helpful when you’ve just been hit with a brilliant idea. You’re coursing through with new ideas and characters and places and they’re all interconnecting.
For this outline, it helps to create a mindmap. Yep, get out those colored pencils and printer paper again!
Start with the main idea or character or plot point. Write it down in the center of your paper and draw a circle around it. As more ideas come to you, connect them to the main circle and build out, writing down more ideas and drawing more circles.
Once you’ve exhausted your idea banks, begin cataloging this map by color coding similar themes. Combine like ideas, relationships, plot lines, so you can see how things interconnect in a clearer way. You can then transfer all of this to a scene by scene outline, or just a bullet-point list.
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Either way, order it in a way that makes sense to you. You’re now ready to create a full Scene by Scene Outline, or Line Outline. This helps you see all the seemingly disconnected parts of a new story and connect them in a way that makes sense.
The Chronological timeline
Come on…did you really think I could limit myself to just three outline types??
The Chronological Timeline is a special one. Not every writer will use this, but every fanperson in history would thank the fandom gods if one of these fell into their lap.
The Chronological Timeline works just like it sounds: it’s not a scene by scene take of your story, it’s the actual timeline of every event in your story, including events long before and long after the main plot of your story.
This is especially helpful for fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, and historical fiction writers. You can more easily weave in flashbacks when you know where they take place in relation to your main plot.
Here we go!
Write about a bird’s view from his spot sitting on a power line. What does he see?
You wake up in a bed that isn’t yours. Write about why and how you got there.
Write a poem about your relationship to your mirror.
Write about a “what if” summer experience. What if you had gone to camp? What if you had kissed the boy? What if you had followed the twinkling lights down the path?
Write the origin story of the Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown. )
Write a poem about the icy winter, using as many words for ice, snow, and dark as you can.
You can control how fast or slowly time moves. Write a scene where you slow down time and write a scene where you speed it up.
Take the two main characters in your current WIP and write six letters that pass between the two at a pivotal moment in your story.
Look out your window. Write a short story that takes places in the area you can see.
Summer is just around the corner (seriously, when did that happen??) so use this springtime to spring yourself into a creative and writing-full summer!
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