Outline and Structure for Your Novel

NaNo Notebook

This week’s tip to win National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November is about outlining and structure. Since this challenge has an underlying goal of writing as fast as you can in thirty days, it will be very helpful if you know vaguely where you’re going.

Once you know what you want to write about, (look here for tips on where to find story ideas) start to break it down into sections.  The first section should be the longest.  This is where you’re introducing characters and leading up to the big climax of the story.  This is where you’ll use all that research and back story you worked so hard to come up with in October.  I would estimate this to be about half to two thirds of your book.

The middle section is the big bang, the climax of the book. This could be where a big cliff-hanger appears or maybe where a big “incident” occurs.  Whatever your story, this section is what you’ve been building up to, make sense?  But remember, it can’t be so revealing that the reader would be satisfied stopping there.  You want them to be excited to keep reading all the way to the end.

The last section is typically the shortest. It is here that questions are answered, mysteries revealed, loose ends tied up, etc.  The conclusion is where you will leave the reader either wishing for more or relieved it’s over, so wrap it up carefully.

Once you have the three main parts figured out, you can start a rough outline. Some people get very detailed, even crafting the first and last sentences for each chapter.  I like to leave a little more wiggle room.  After all, sometimes a twist will come to you out of nowhere in the middle of the night.  Or a particular opportunity for mischief may present itself, which leads off on a tangent.  Yes, good unexpected tangents are often hard to come by.  They cannot be easily dismissed.

I know some people don’t outline at all and use the seat-of-the-pants method. Unless you are an extremely imaginative person, I’d advise against this approach.  At least put some basics down on paper.  Really, you’ll thank me in November.


One response to this post.

  1. […] « Outline and Structure for Your Novel […]


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