As a writer, I understand how hard getting started can be. I mentioned in a previous post how planning can save you time. Guess what is part of that process? Outlining! Outlining not only gives you a bird’s eye view of your novel, but provides a solid foundation. There’s a reason a house needs a foundation to stand tall. That foundation gives it structure. Writing isn’t any different.
Your writing will be all over the place without structure. I know you like your creative mind to bounce all over the place with ideas, but there’s a fine medium when it comes to structuring your story. You want a smooth flow without being too restrictive. Give enough structure to know what to write about, but don’t paraphrase an entire novel. You want your characters to be consistent. You want everything to make sense. What you do not want is an outline that restricts your creativity.
In this post, I will go over three useful techniques to get you started.
The Snowflake Method
You’ve probably come across this method one way or another. The snowflake method is an effective outlining technique that can be used to get the ball rolling.
Start with a sentence that describes your story. If you don’t have a story, try starting with the first idea that pops up in your head.
“Tom walked down to his neighbour’s house to get some water”
Expand on that idea.
“Tom got back from his bike ride, so he walked to his house to get some water. There wasn’t any, so he figured his neighbour Mark might have fresh water.”
“After Tom got back from his five-mile bike ride, he went into his house to get some water. As he turned the faucet, he realized the water has been shut off. Tom had no way to get water. Dehydrated, he walked over to Mark’s house to grab some of his filtered water. Mark invited him in and they chatted for a bit.”
You get the idea. Keep expanding until you have enough details to craft a story. When the story becomes big enough, start adding dialogue. Many directions can be taken with this method, take it whichever way you please.
Summarize your entire story from beginning to end. This summary should only be one or two paragraphs. No details and no dialogue. You take care of the fine details when expanding upon your story. This is great because the summary allows you to put your idea onto paper without distorting the original premise. If you tried writing a 10,000-word novel without knowing the main premise, you’d find yourself getting lost in the writing process. The summary keeps you focused on what the story is about.
You always want to keep the story’s premise crystal-clear. When you have the summary written, expand upon the paragraphs. Turn one of the sentences into two. Turn each of those into two more. Soon you’ll find yourself writing dialogue and building characters. If you don’t like the direction the story is heading, simply undo. You can backtrack without losing the whole structure.
The summary is quite similar to the snowflake technique. Truth is, some techniques will work better for you than others. Be sure to experiment and find what works for you!
Outline Chapter to Chapter
This method is good for longer stories or novels. It’s simple: give each chapter a summary. This gives you enough creative control to craft the details while keeping the story consistent. You’ll know if a chapter aligns with the rest of your story just by checking the other summaries
Tom is walking with his friend. They come across an abandoned well. They decide to check it out. As they look in, they are surprised at what they see.
They meet a strange creature. They have never seen anything like it. They decide what to do. They end up trying to talk to the creature, but it stands still. Moments after the boys attempted to get the creature’s attention, it looks up at them.
Tom and his friend are terrified as the creature continues to stare. It jumps up at them. Tom panics and tells the creature to calm down. The creature freezes as Tom’s friend stares back. They seem to be communicating.
Use the same rules as the ‘summary technique’ when expanding.
Remember to keep the summaries simple. You’re not using your creativity just yet! You just want a simple summary that can be expanded on.
Once you have the entire story summarized in chapters, start adding details. This simple technique is surprisingly useful.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you find these tips helpful and will use them to come up with some fresh new ideas :).
P.S: Stay tuned for more tips and techniques!