One of the biggest parts of any writing is knowing what you’ll be writing, either by way of post-it notes, corkboard, chalkboard, or whiteboards. Notebooks, on the computer or not, wherever you can get your hands to fly and get your bursting creativity into some kind of writing.
So it makes sense that an important part of NaNoWriMo is to have an outline ready and set for the next 30 days, so you know where to go. There are pantsers, people who write by the seat of their pants without having much of anything prepared, who don’t need the outlines, who are perfectly fine with or seasoned veterans of their whims.
For those of us (me) who feel utterly lost when they don’t have anything planned out, outlines exist. Thank goodness.
Funny enough, I found this guide just a few days ago, which nearly does my job for me, giving a good explanation of different ways of outlining and examples. It’s a good place to look for what kind of outlining might be best for you, or to see what type you identify with the best.
On the reasons of why to do this, “painting yourself into a corner” is probably one of the best reasons, in my opinion. One year, Friend killed off his MC in the middle of the novel. I know, it’s not terribly exciting, but I love this story, that he issued their death and then went on to finish the novel. He didn’t care for the finished product, but he didn’t stop. Nothing could stop him.
While it’s an awesome story of perseverance, it’s also a bit of a nightmare. Outlining, even if it’s vague and free written, can help you avoid getting stuck. If you know where to go, even just a little bit, you keep away from little plot holes that drag you in and don’t let go.
To know who’s in your main roster list, who they mostly interact with, and to have an idea of where the story is going, is a huge advantage.
I still remember last year when I’d come up with a basic idea of the first few chapters and then froze, unsure of what to do. I just paused and blinked at the screen for a few seconds. Despite having the bigger points and a huge amount of the meat of the story fixed and fleshed out, the beginning area was stumping me. I had months of preparation under my belt last year. At least I learned from that; when you have a big idea, a seriously big novel, sometimes it’s easy to overlook details.
This year I have mercifully made it a much smaller task to finish the novel…
With outlining, you also have a chance to research, which can lead to more ideas and, like the article says, a better flow for creativity, as well as to help with the movement of the plot and conflict. It can change the tone or set of the novel, when it’s just in its first stages of creation.
Any kind of preparation is going to be crucial to the novel and its structure, to how you write it and those terrible moments of brain blanking where you have no idea what you’re going to do next. Where is point A, and where is point B, and how are you going to get there? What is important enough to make it into the grand scheme of things and what’s just filler?
Whatever you put forward is going to help, but if you’re not the type to outline, or you don’t care for it, I invite you to try, even just a little bit. Write out the plot, a couple of characters, and see where it takes you. Free Writing is the best option, usually, for those who aren’t so used to outlining. It helps to just let out a flow of conscious, and you don’t need to be super specific about every little detail going on, save that for the writing come November 1st!
I wanted to squeak in a Happy Halloween to everyone celebrating it, be safe and responsible! And a HUGE good luck to any and everyone doing NaNoWriMo this year, starting midnight tonight, the writing frenzy begins!
My blogging will be reduced by another day or two, or they’ll be shorter. I will try to keep up as best as I can! Happy writing, whether you’re participating or not!
-The Novice Wordsmith