It’s been nearly a month since my last Writing Prophecies post and I apologize endlessly about that you guys! I just think these posts are the most critical of me to write because some (if not all) of y’all read these posts to take my advice on writing, which is just like whoa.
People actually read these posts and use the advice I write in their own writing. It’s a lot when I think about it like that so that’s why whenever I write a Writing Prophecies post, I take my time to make sure I give you all the best advice I can give.
That being said, today’s post is about a section of writing that is probably my most dreaded, but also the best part! That, my friends, is outlining. But before I start, make sure to check out some of my other Writing Prophecies posts!
After you’ve come up with your idea for your book and you’ve got your characters and whatnot, it’s time to decide what events you want to happen and how you’d like them to unfold and when.
This can be a headache because you’re figuring out what’s going to happen in your book and when it’s going to happen and how. It’s frustrating because sometimes things don’t line up well because you need to add in a new event in order for one event to work and then you’ll have to scrap one of your other ideas – that you had all written up in your head, might I add – and it all becomes a jumbled up mess and you’re left crying in a corner…
I’m not being too dramatic here.
Dramatics aside, let’s get serious here for a second. Outlining is very important. Not just for your book but for your sanity as well because once you start writing your book, you want to have some sort of direction for your story to go in. Talking from personal experience, one of the worst things you can do to yourself is dangling yourself off a creative cliff with nowhere to go but down.
I’ve done this too many times in the past and only in the latest book I’ve been working on have I actually outlined some of the book and what events are going to happen before I began writing. It’s helped me tremendously! I’ve made it to a word count in a record amount of time for me without constantly stepping over my own feet.
That was metaphorically speaking, of course, I’m not that clumsy.
Contrary to the title of this post, I’m still alive and breathing and I didn’t have an angel bring me back to life because I actually made it through outlining without dying! To be completely fair, I didn’t write in-depth outlines and descriptions on exactly what I’d like to happen for my book. I am still surprising myself with new plot twists and characters I’d like to introduce and all that jazz, but if you outline at least a percentage of what you’d like to happen in your novel, that’s a whole lot better than nothing!
I now kind of wish I had written a post on how to make three-dimensional characters because that should probably be done before you outline your book, but you are your own writer and everybody has a different writing process so I’ll do that next time.
When you’re outlining a book you need to think about what you want your overall goal and message to be. Do you want your book to convey some deep and hidden meaning or do you want your message to be plain and clear? Do you want your main character to strive to make that message clear to other characters and the reader or will your main character learn that meaning themselves by the end of the book?
An example of a hidden message – or theme – is looking past someone’s skin color and ethnicity and what lays below and how you shouldn’t judge a person by their ethnic background. This is the hidden message of the book I’m currently writing – or, well, one of the hidden messages
because apparently I’m Buddha and want peace and understanding for all through my deep hidden messages and meanings.
Sometimes it’s hard to choose a theme and sometimes you don’t even know your theme until you’re done writing the book – but it’s important that your book does have one because then what’s the point of writing the book? Thus, brings me to my next point.
If you don’t know your theme then you have to ask yourself why you’re writing the book you’re writing. Let’s say that you decide to write a fantasy novel with a bisexual main character with a disability of some sort (ie: missing arm, missing eye, etc.). Your reason for writing that book might be to add diversity to the fantasy genre and nothing else. But, as you begin to write your book and start having a plot and other characters you might realize a theme to your book.
Besides theme, I’ll list a few things you should make sure to include whenever you outline your book:
- An introduction. Not all introductions need to be “My name is Beatrice and I am selfless – but maybe I’m something more and it’ll get me killed – but for now my hair is getting cut by my mother while I look in a mirror we shouldn’t even have in the first place. This is the cliche way of telling all of you readers out there what I look like.”
No I’m not hating on Divergent, what are you talking about?Make your intro natural-sounding and please, dear god, don’t make it a cliche such as waking up for the first day of school. Be creative!
- A rising action. This is before the climax, but an example would be the first and second tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. It’s not the big event but it is still important to the story and eases the reader into the larger things to come.
- A climax or big event of some sort. You know the third task from the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire? That’s an example of a climax. It’s got to be either physically or emotionally intense in some way. It doesn’t have to be some big epic battle. Sometimes in contemporary it’s an event the main character has been waiting for such as the cliche prom or a vacation of sorts.
- A falling action. This is after the climax and is how you show the aftermath of the big event that took place during the climax. You should begin to think about things you would like to include before the ending of your book comes and how you’ll end the book.
- The end. Endings are hard. Extremely hard! I changed a huge part of what my book was going to be about so I’m unsure what my ending is even going to end up being, so endings are probably the hardest part of outlining and don’t even have to be outlined unless you want to center all the other events that happen in your book around the ending.
- Make sure the events match your characters. Even if you end up changing the course of your book mid-way through writing said book
like I have, oops,you need to make sure that as you write your characters and their journey that the events you write still fit in who your character has become. I’m unsure whether I’m explaining this right or not, but this is the only way I can explain it to y’all.
- Be vague. You don’t have to go into depth about the events you want to happen. You can simply say ‘I want Ashley to go through something traumatic so that she’ll grow as a character and become less stupid’. That works too. It’s also great because even if your characters change, they’ll still fit into the outline you wrote! Giving yourself creative freedom like that in the future is amazing. I know I hate confining myself by certain rules that I set for myself when all I want to do is write something else.
I hope y’all learned something from this post because it was kind of a mess. Outlining makes me a mess, if I’m being completely honest, but I did want to write this post because I’m trying to cover all aspects of the struggles of writing in this series of posts I’m writing for y’all to read and (hopefully) learn from.
Make sure to let me know any tips you have on outlining because I surely need them as much as you do! And let me know if this post helped you any as well as any topics you’d like me to cover in the future!
P.S. I have a giveaway happening that ends on the 30th! You can check it out here. It’s international!