Many fiction novelists wince at the thought of sitting down to create an entire novel outline in one sitting. The common theory is that such an approach inhibits the creative process and limits how the story will progress. However, neglecting to outline a novel before sitting down to write can lead to incoherency and a lack of depth. In many cases, novelists working without outlines find themselves progressing smoothly through the first two or three chapters, only to come to an insurmountable halt thereafter. If forming a story from start to finish before actually writing it in its’ entirety seems less than appealing, take a glance at the following tips on how to keep the fiction novel plot outlining process creative for a little help.
Tip #1: Keep outline tidbits everywhere. One of the most debilitating methods of outlining a fiction novel is quite often the process of limiting one’s efforts to a specific time and place every time. Instead, always carry a notebook that can hold ideas when inspiration strikes. After all, there are only so many creative surges that can occur from your office desk.
Tip #2: Start with an idea only. Outlining a fiction novel does not necessarily have to mean rushing to finish the story. Many authors can confirm that developing the story, not writing it, is the part that involves the most work. As such, take your time when outlining your novel. Something as simple as a general idea that can be put on paper is enough to get you started. The details will come later, just as the initial idea came on its’ own.
Tip #3: Create pivotal moments, not chapter numbers. Being creative when outlining a fiction novel means letting the story come alive all by itself. As such, writing down chapter numbers and hoping to fill them with drama one at a time is quite often a dead end approach. Instead, jot down what you feel will influence the story at some point, any point, and decide later how to insert those scenes into your time line.
Tip #4: Hold “inspiration” sessions rather than literal outlining sessions. The word “outlining” conjures up images of finding facts and figures and aligning them perfectly for a writing piece. While research is necessary for most novels, creating a plot for fiction is more about collaborating ideas that come quite literally out of the blue. Harnessing that creative spark and putting it on paper is the key. As such, schedule inspiration sessions for yourself regularly. While some ideas will come through daily life, writers hoping to finish a novel in a reasonable time frame must set aside time for their stories to take flight. Whether it means getting out of the city or simply sitting in your office listening to moving music, take time out for a bit of scheduled creativity.
Tip #5: Consider creating your time line in the final stages of the outlining process. While it does make sense to create your novel’s time line first, your pivotal scenes may need to occur out of their original sequence once the story is underway. Keep your creative opportunities open by aligning each scene chronologically later on.
Tip #6: Cut away scenes last. Cutting away scenes while still in the initial stages of your plot outline may curb your creativity. What seems like a bad idea now may actually contribute to another spark later. In other words, trying to piece together the entire story will not be your first goal. You’ll first want to brainstorm every idea that comes your way. Deciding what can be developed further will be your next step.
Tip #7: Create the outline with inspiration, create the novel with the outline. In other words, actually writing the dialogue between characters or describing a setting to your readers is enough of a creative process in itself. Managing those tasks while simultaneously deciding where the story will go is often too difficult of a task for even accomplished writers to handle successfully.
Take joy in the writing process itself, but learn to differentiate the creative joy that comes from writing the story from the creative outlet that is formed while outlining the story. Both processes have their own unique attributes to offer the creative professional.