With NaNoWriMo closing in I have found myself looking into a new method for outlining a novel. Due to how long our collaborations usually take, both Jei and I have decided to take on separate projects this year. Despite that our combined outlining method works well, this solo venture has made me realize that I need to take a different approach to how I outline.
As I began to explore the googleverse for some of the more prominent methods I found that the amount of actual methods is nearly overwhelming. On top of the large number, there were a plethora of biased opinions, arguments and just utter insistence that their way was the only sure fire way. Fortunately, I learned a long time ago that when it comes to creative processes there is no one size fits all.
Ignoring the outcry of conflict coming from the crowd of pick this method or that, I began to dig into a handful of methods that caught my eye. While not all of them panned out, a few of them stuck to me in both a good or bad way. These are the five methods I took time to look into, read about and have a minor opinion on. Keep in mind this is my personal opinion and by no means invalidates the value of any one of these methods.
The Middle Writing Method – Written by the author James Scott Bell, this method proposes that you take a critical moment in your novel and write from there. While I may not be explaining it in depth he explains the principle well here. I personally love the idea of taking that pinnacle mirror moment of the main character and using it as the anchor to the rest of my story. I took this method and applied it to my working outline and found that it helped me plot out my progression easily. I’d recommend it.
Snowflake Method – Written by a computer programmer, this method takes the approach of building from small to large pieces through ten steps. You can find more information here pertaining to how to follow the steps and apply them to your work. I personally found the method way too bogged down for my taste. I did take a whack at the first few steps and found myself growing frustrated at the amount of detail I’d need to put into just the outline. I felt as if I was already writing the novel. For someone who loves this approach, I say that it has merit and can work. For me, it was just too much so I moved on.
The 5-Step Process – This one is so simple it made me raise an eyebrow at the validity of its actual method. Apparently, it is used by a lot of people. While I may find it a bit too simplistic for my uses I can see how someone who just wants to follow the step by step process of writing to publishing could find this useful. The best description of this process can be found here. I opted not to use it as unlike the Snowflake method where there was too much, this was too little for my mind to utilize in my writing.
The Novel Factory Method (And Software) – This method is similar to snowflake with an accompanying software and multi-step process to follow in order. I find it a lot more informative and helpful than the snowflake. You can find the steps here on their actual website. I have personally taken a few items from this method and applied it to my own. I’d say that it is helpful without bogging you down too much.
The 5-Draft Process – I stumbled upon this method while roaming the NaNoWriMo forums recently. To me, it made the most sense. I am a multi-draft type of writer. Even when I write my blog I end up with 2-5 drafts before it actually makes it to the published product. The way it is explained here is very concise and informative. The idea that each draft needs to serve a purpose along with the insistence that multiple drafts are acceptable really spoke to me. I took this method to heart and have found myself feeling more confident in my current way of draft to draft. I’d give it a try if you are a multi-draft writer like me.
There are an abundance of methods out there for you to try. Please keep in mind as you outline that there is no right or wrong method. Whatever works for you is right and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. Creativity comes to people in different ways. I personally love how diverse the methods are and that there are so many writers out there that utilize them. So as you sit down to outline your next book, I’d suggest taking a second to look around for any new methods. Who knows, maybe something out there can be added to your current process and help you out!
What method of outlining do you use? Do you use any of the ones I have listed? What were your results? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!