I did not finish the book I was listening to this week, so I thought I would go over my outline process. I started doing some new things towards the end of 2016. This going to be a massive amount of detail, so hold onto your hats and enjoy!
Please remember that just because this works for me, does not mean that it will work for you.
Let me start by saying I did this as budget friendly as possible. Here is what you will need.
- Pen or Sharpie pen
- Index Cards
- Whiteout (if you want to edit pen instead of starting a new card)
- Binder Clips (Small and Large)
(I forgot to add the tubs in this picture, but they are down below)
**Everything (except the Sharpie) was purchased at the dollar store**
Once you have all the items you need, now set up your titles.
Your Title pages (you need three) should be the title of your book (give it a title, even if you plan on changing it later) and then at the bottom of each one needs to read Chapters/Changes, Descriptions, or Important Information.
Set up your card like this.
Preface (or chapter do not add chapter number in pen or marker), characters, setting, plot, and conflict should all be written in pen or marker.
**Only write “chapter” in pen and not the chapter number**
The reason I say this is because I found that as I began working on my story, I wanted to add and take away some chapters. Being able to erase the chapter number allowed me to quickly edit all the note cards. The reason I did not write it all in pencil is that I did not want to accidently erase the titles.
As for the spacing between titles, you want what works best for you. I found that the spacing I have here worked best for me. If you need more space for your plot or conflict, you can also use the back of your notecard.
Now for how to use it. It is pretty self-explanatory, but I will tell you what I do anyway. I make one of the house outlines (my husband learned the burger outline, not the house, so maybe you were taught a different one as well) you learn about in elementary school. I can post a picture if you need more detail, but for me, it contains the very basic information and is roughly a paragraph or two about what happens in your book and how it ends.
So I take that information from my house outline and expand it into mini-chapter plots. I write the mini-chapter plots on each card. Start at chapter one or preface, and write until you have reached the end of the story. I try to make the book at least twenty chapters when I do this. As I stated above, while you are writing your story you can add or take away chapters as needed. For example when I first wrote the cards for The Healer Who Needed Healing part one only had seven chapters, now it has twelve.
Allow your book to talk to you and tell you what it needs 🙂
This is where the “Changes” part comes into play. As you are writing your story, some ideas jump into your head. Keep a notecard at your hand so you can write down the idea that has nothing to do with what you are writing right now.
Have you ever done this?
Picture you sitting at your desk. You are in the middle of chapter three and out of nowhere, your brain says, “Hey! You should make John fall into a river!”
And you think, “Well brain, that is a good idea. However, there is no river here. It could work in chapter six, but I am not doing chapter six.” So you either A) go to chapter six and add John falling into the river and forget about what you were going to do in chapter three or B) tell yourself that you will not forget and keep on going in chapter three. Oh, and of course, you forget about John and the river.
Yeah, I am guilty of that. The other thing that happens to me is when I do go to chapter six the addition almost never quite fits. By writing down my idea and the approximant place I want it to be, gives me the ability to, A) finish what I am currently working on, B) remember what I wanted to add, and C) find the PERFECT place for the idea.
Your thought process has not been interrupted, your story flows, and you are not frustrated with yourself. Everybody wins!
Keep the Chapters in order and place your Changes card to the front or back of the pile when you are not working on the story. Keep All of these cards clipped together with a large binder clip.
I feel like this one is also pretty self-explanatory, but once again, here you go.
I have one card that has a list of characters that are mentioned in the story. This card is put together before and after I write out the chapters and also updated as I write the book. Basically, always keep this up to date.
Each of those characters has its own card that has their body description. This way I can refer to how they look every time they come up in my story. By doing this, I have found that I no longer have changing eye or hair colors that my editor used to find in my previous books. Also for the main characters, I will sometimes add personality traits.
With this book, I have characters that change into another form (wolf). As you can see, I added a place for that description as well. Again, I now no longer find colors changing for my characters.
When not in use keep them clipped together with either a small or large binder clip.
The last topic is the significant information you cannot forget. The example I give is the wolf rules. (This is an old picture, the current card is in a packed bag, and I am lazy.) Anyway, you want a topic for every import aspect of your story. For example; I have cards for pack numbers and ages; potions used in this story and what is in them; pack relationships; Latin words, phrases, and their meanings, witch rules; etc.
Basically, you want these cards to be things that are rules for your story. I also use these cards to keep information on PTSD, psychopaths, and narcissists, etc. for my contemporary novels. These are not “rules,” but they are needed information for my contemporary work.
As for the Skipped Chapters card, that is where I keep the chapters that I decided not to work on last time I edited my story. Sometimes I am not in the right headspace to work on a particular part, but I know it needs attention. I write it down, and next time I feel like editing I look at the chapters listed first.
The last thing I keep with these cards is blank notecards. Some are completely blank, and some have the headings for the chapter cards. This is so when I am working on the cards, and I am not home, I can still add things I need.
When not in use, keep clipped together with either a large or small binder clip. When I am first starting out I sometimes only use a paperclip.
Why the Highlighter?
I use the highlighter to mark any cards that have been changed or added. Anytime I make changes to the cards I adjust the mark and keep a list of those changes on a card.
(These are the tubs I talked about above)
All I did was place the unopened package of notecards into containers until I found one that fit them. I put the UNOPENED ones in the “Blank Notecards” and the opened cards/ outlines in the “story outlines” tub. I keep them next to my computer screen on my desk.
It looks like this inside the outline container. I have a couple outlines missing because I have been working on them.
I bought the yellow tabs with the labels at the dollar store as well.
Yes, writing these outlines is time-consuming. Some of them have taken up to three days for me to complete. However, for me, the ways it has helped me has made the time spent worth it.
Anyway, I hope that this helps you get organized and outlined. Let me know how you like to outline your stories in the comments below!
Next week I will tell you how I turn these into full chapters.
Be free and keep reading!