Saturday, September 24, 2011

How to Prep for a Book, Step 4: Chapter Outline

This week is dedicated to preparing your novel before you start it, or “plotting.” The fourth step: make a chapter outline.

This isn’t the same thing as the outline we talked about yesterday. The Plot Outline was the bare-bones of the story: boy gets bit by spider, boy discovers super powers, boy saves the world.

A chapter outline is a more thorough description of how the events unfold. Example: boy wakes up. Boy goes to school and gets made fun of. Boy goes on field trip and gets bit by a spider.

This kind of outline lists each and every step in the book. If there’s a moment when your character looks at a tree and thinks about life, you write it down.

It’s pretty time consuming, of course. You have to reeeeealy know your book before doing this, but that’s the whole point.

I’ve never done this before, but I’m halfway done with the one for my Nano book, and I love it. I can see my book in my head so clearly. Now when I sit down to write in November, I can look at my list and say, “Today I’m going to write about my MC looking at a tree,” instead of wondering what I should do next.

It’s helpful to make a chapter outline on cards. Since I have three POV characters, I need to do a lot of scene shifting, so lay my cards out on my desk and move them around until everything looks right.

Once I’m pretty sure where I want a certain scene to be, I go into a word document and write anything that’s in my head about the scene (quotes, imagery, etc.) so I don’t forget anything.

I won’t be able to finish this step until I’m partway (maybe even halfway) through the book. Even though I know my book pretty well, one can only know so much.

I’ll keep you updated in November on how this step is working out for me. I'm pretty optimistic about it.


  1. I'm so happy you're going through this process!!! You can never get too much information or ideas!!! :)

    Can I ask, what is this Nano thing I've been hearing everyone talk about? Sorry, being new to blogger and all, I find myself asking lots of questions. :)


  2. National Novel Writing Month. It happens each November. I learned about it last year when I started blogging, too. And I started going to a writers group. Now I'm deep into my second career as writer but didn't know how to write for this challenge so I wrote about that. A piece of creative nonfiction or memoir.
    This post seems like a great prep. Thanks for posting. :)

  3. Oh Wow! Thanks! I'll definitely be looking into that! Thanks for your help!


  4. Mandi: National Novel Writing Month is a challenge to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. You can't start your book until November 1, and on November 30, you have to paste your book into a word generator to win. 35,000 writers won last year. It was AWESOME! Got to for more details. If you decide to do it, be sure to friend me... rosepetal720.

  5. This sounds like the way to go if I'm plotting this year. Thanks for sharing!

  6. What a great little series you have going here! I love to outline, though I fear I do it a lil' to much. I'm trying to adopt a slightly more panster approach. Just to see how it tastes.

  7. Ahhh! Teralyn! I'm doing it! I decided today!

    Even if I fall short, I'm doing it!!! I'm scared as hell, but what the heck do I have to lose?

    I'll try to find you, but I'm not sure how just yet. I'm still trying to find my way around the site which has lot of information, and for someone who's A.D.D... Well, you get it. So if I can't find you, please find me. I'm LoverDove. :)

  8. Yay, MS Tucker, I'm so happy! It's overwhelming at first, but you have a whole month to figure it out, and it's sooooo much fun!


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