Easy Way To Outline A Novel
Most of us did outlines in high school and college and most of us didn’t enjoy it. I’ve been to workshops read books on the subject and came up with my own method that is quick, easy and gets you started writing sooner which is your whole reason for creating an outline.
You’ve seen the insect like diagrams and other methods but I’ll give you a short cut to save a bit of time and hopefully get you to the end result much faster.
Write a synopsis-
This will change many times over the course of your story as you make changes and characters go in directions you had no intention of them going but for now you need to write down the main idea of your story. Don’t make it too long or it turns into a short story, just get the bones down; we’ll add flesh and blood later.
Read books similar to the one you are writing-
This is the fun part. Go to a bookstore if you have access to one or at least the library and peruse the shelves looking for novels as close to the one you want to write as possible.
How many chapters do the books have? How many pages does each chapter have? What happens in each chapter? Take notes of two or three novels; even writing names of chapters if relevant. DO NOT COPY ANOTHER AUTHOR’S WORK. We are simply getting ideas for three reasons- 1) you will get a feel of what publishers want as far as amount of chapters, content and word count, 2) ideas for your own chapters and 3) title ideas. I was writing a story and discovered there was already a recent novel with my working title; I changed it. You may discover someone else already wrote your plan for a scene and you'll need to change it up a bit. Perhaps your character's name is the same, that might be something you need to alter as well.
A double spaced document with 12 point font is roughly the same as a novel page. Different fonts are different but that is pretty close.
Reading other people’s work sometimes triggers ideas such as, if you read about a character eating at a restaurant you might decide to put a restaurant scene in your own piece but much different. Seeing a protagonist on vacation might give you the idea of your own characters going on vacation but to another location with totally different actions.
Divide your book into chapters-
Take a sheet of paper or word document and number down the page the same amount of chapters your research subjects have.
A title isn’t terribly important for now so just make something up if you aren’t sure; for instance if you are writing a mystery about a man who solves crimes maybe write Detective Story-Working Title. You can change it later and in some cases you may change it a few times but for now that will be sufficient.
In your mind you have the basis of your story all ready mapped out. You may not have all the details but you know what you want to happen.
Write a few notes on each chapter of scene ideas. On the computer you can move these parts around as needed. You may decide instead of your protagonist meeting that witness at a strip club in chapter twelve you’d rather put that off a bit so you move it down a couple sections. It’s your story dissect it and add to it as needed.
You’ll find as you are outlining in this way you are actually starting to write your book; this is the short cut. When drawing bugs on paper you don’t get very far but when you go ahead and design chapters and lay it out in this way you jump in with all four feet and before you know it you are creating your novel.