Book outlining and an icon timeline

“I’ve found that people who outline a lot spend more time up front planning. People who discover their story by writing it spend more time at the end revising. It tends to even out.”
—Brandon Sanderson

After my NaNoWriMo experience last November, I decided to plan my book. It’s been now about 3 months since I started outlining. I can’t believe it has taken me 3 months to outline a single book. I still feel I could do much more planning. But, tomorrow I am starting the draft. This is what I have to show for my outlining phase:

I wrote 37K words in early drafts, mostly pantsying. In the last three months I’ve written 90K words in notes (character bios, plot outline, setting descriptions, etc). It seems overwhelming when looking at those numbers.

Outline

Following the advice in The Novel-Writing Training Plan, I wrote a synthesis of plot, a kind of “draft zero”, with all the story fully detailed, but with none of the narrative. I’m sure by the time I write my draft one, the plot will change again. The outline is simply a map, the discover is in the writing journey itself.

This outline represents the different arcs, characters and themes of the story. It is helpful to see how well distributed the conflicts (⚠️), the revelations (⭕️, ❌) and the character’s goal (🚀), and other ideas like robots (🤖), drugs (💊), etc. This is just the condensed version, the full outline has one section per scene and one line item per topic.

Tools

  • Ulysses for non distraction writing.
  • OmniOutliner for outlining: This is my replacement for the common cards system for planning. I like text in lines or paragraph form more than cards or even mindmapping.

Planning and outlining can be an obsessive form of procrastination. I am looking forward to writing the book. My goal: 2,000 words per scene per day.

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