Blog,  The Writing Process

A Novel Outline: An Exercise in Plotting (Part I)

Howdy!* In my last post, I spoke briefly about two categories of writers: pantsers and plotters. I didn’t go into much detail, but I did drop a link to Jane Friedman’s wonderful blog. To be brief: a plotter tends to enjoy structure (i.e. writes a novel outline) while a pantser tends to enjoy discovery (i.e. writes what comes to mind). As with most things, there will be overlap, so these definitions aren’t all encompassing.

Pantser (usually doesn't have a novel outline)
Plotter (usually has a novel outline).

Despite being the most Virgo of Virgos in almost every other way (from my love of spreadsheets/lists to my love of order), I’m 70% a pantser. I’ve always written out of order, jotting down scenes and sections as they come. Don’t get me wrong. I always know the general plot, and I spend a lot of time getting to know the characters/researching before I begin writing scenes. But I’ve never been one to know scene by scene what’s coming.

When I started my most recent project, I made a promise to write freely and openly in July and August. In fact, the goal was to avoid plotting wherever possible (in favor of getting words/ideas on the page). But it’s September now and, in the spirit of doing something both anti- and pro-Virgo**, I’ve decided to set a different goal for myself: write a novel outline.


Novel outline you say? Why yes I will scream internally.

Yes, seriously. I’ve never done this before, but I think it could be beneficial to try. One of my goals is to write faster first drafts without losing quality. Having a a novel outline with a clear structure might help with this.

And, it’s not as though I’m going cold turkey. Because I’ve already written parts of the draft in sequential order, it shouldn’t be impossible to write the remainder in that same spirit (famous last words).

To hold myself accountable, I’m giving myself a deadline for the soft outline draft: Tuesday, September 24th.

Whether I meet the goal or not, I’ll post an update. In the meantime, I should probably get started drafting the outline.

Y’all pray/cast a spell for me.

* I don’t know why this has been my greeting lately. Maybe because of the number of times I’ve heard “The Git Up” in recent weeks (2019 needed this energy).

** Virgos do not like change, but we do like challenges. No misunderstandings, though. We’ll definitely adapt. But we’ll do so begrudgingly.

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