There is nothing more exciting for a writer as when it’s time again to embark upon that novel journey. I’ve been letting the writing juices simmer a bit before jumping into my new book, but now I’m rearing to go. I’m one of those authors (I think I’m in the minority) that spends the time to put together an outline for my entire book. It actually ends up being the choppy first draft of the novel.
Outlining definitely isn’t an “all work and no play”format. It can be quite fun and exciting to see the entire story in front of you.
Why do I spend the time on a complete outline?
For me, it’s a way that I can see the entire picture of my novel in one snapshot. It’s especially helpful with crime, suspense and mystery stories. I want to make sure of the pacing, clues, subplots, and if there’s indeed a complete overall story. Okay, let’s face it, I’m a control freak. I admit it. My mind works in a systematic way and it’s how I approach most of my consulting work as well.
However, I strongly state this with conviction: anything can change during the outlining process and nothing is ever carved into stone. Outlining shouldn’t take away from the creativity of any story.
In a perfect world, my comprehensive outline would take four weeks, but realistically it turns out to be six to eight weeks. I’ve divided my method of outlining madness into four phases.
OUTLINING — PHASE ONE
This is where I lay out the bones to the story. It’s an overview or a crime roadmap. For many writers this would be their outline before they jump into the writing aspect and create the story.
Character Profiles: I spend time preparing each of the main characters and supporting characters from their physical appearances to their deepest, darkest secrets creating their individual stories. It’s similar to working the beginning stages of a profile and victimology in a crime case. I work out their internal and external conflicts and how they are going to interact with other characters. I prepare details about these characters even if I choose not to use it in this story. With recurring characters, such as Emily Stone and Rick Lopez, I work out subtle growth changes in their characters so that they won’t become boring and stale.
Setting Profiles: This is where layout particular towns and cities, streets, parks, residences, landmarks, and locate research that I need as far as the setting is concerned.
Story Summary Outline: This portion takes the longest to write out several pages for each the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I let the flow and creativity go; sometimes it surprises me where things end up.
Plot: I flesh out the exact story theme, subplots, and any additional story threads I want to introduce and weave through out. I also will know what my climax, twist, and resolution will be at this point. Again, this could change a little or a lot as I get into the more nuts and bolts of the free flow writing.
Research: This is one of my favorite parts of writing crime fiction. Even though I’m familiar with many aspects of what I write about with crime, forensics, and criminology, there are always new things to research. For example, I might want to dig up more interesting interrogation techniques or tidbits about personality disorders.
Once I complete Phase One of my outlining madness, I have a solid grasp on my new novel. I’m readying to go on to the next step!
What’s your method of outlining? Plotter or panster?
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