In preparation for Camp NaNoWriMo next month, and all future WriMos, I’ve prepared a series of posts full of resources I have found interesting and useful around specific story elements. If you’re struggling with a particular aspect or in search of a refresher or some sort of inspiration, check the resources below to see if that writing block can’t be lifted.
These resources are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and I turn to these resources whenever I’m stuck. They’re probably more beneficial to outliners than discovery writers, at least during the pre-writing stage, but hopefully they are illuminating to you regardless of when you write, or where you are in the writing process.
There is a lot of material out there, but these resources I’m listing are all found online. I haven’t the time or money to go through the many books there are on all the various writing topics, and there are sure to be sites out there that can recommend you excellent books. However, if I do get my hands on a goodie, I’ll be sure to add it to the list.
This week’s theme is one that I have been particularly interested in of late, and that is plot – structuring your story and writing your outline. A plot is the series of events in your story, how they relate to each other and the order in which they occur. A novel always has one central plot, but will typically have several in the form of subplots. Now, this stuff is basic, but a little refresher can’t hurt. Especially when you get so tangled in a plot you can’t make sense of which way is up. Or maybe that’s just me.
There are plenty of other sources with actual methods of outlining, including the snowflake method, tried and true index cards and storyboarding, etc., but the resources on this post are more specifically about the structural aspects of plot outlining.
Janice Hardy’s blog has tons of articles about the writing process, nicely divided into categories. There’s a category about outlining, with a handy NaNoWriMo prep post on it, as well as a nice checklist if you feel like revising your outline. There is also a category on story structure, including the three-act structure 2 3, which she also uses to construct her outlines, scenes 2, and subplots.
Honestly there is so much information on her blog, what I list here does not do it justice. These are just some of the posts I found most useful. Definitely take a look, since there is loads of information that shouldn’t be missed!
Something you should definitely be familiar with if you’re going to write an outline is the three-act structure. If you aren’t sure what that is, here is an excellent post that explains the elements of each act and serves as a checklist for your outline, as well as a post to help you with the end of your novel (specifically the end of Act 2 and Act 3), and a method of outlining that uses the three-act structure using a grid and index cards.
Dan Wells has an excellent lecture on his seven-point outlining structure on Youtube, as well as a Writing Excuses podcast summarizing it in a mere twenty minutes. The podcast is a great refresher, but I highly recommend you watch the full lecture. It’s only 50 minutes long and he gives plenty of examples. Definitely worth a watch!
If you’re a visual person, and you like printable templates and whatnot, this website has a few templates that use both the three-act structure, as well as Freytag’s model. More information on Freytag’s five phases can be found on Wikipedia and this website. These outlines are fairly small, so if you’re reading this mere days before the start of April or July, hopefully they can be filled quickly and generally enough that you can get started!
This website has tons of information about writing a novel, and suggests a particularly interesting method of outlining. It breaks the plot into throughlines for the main plot, subplots and character arcs. Like Dan Wells’ method, it can be broken down and layered, and provides a highly detailed and flexible method of constructing a story.
The last one I stumbled upon by accident, but am enormously glad that I did. Katytastic on Youtube posted a video detailing her method of outlining, an adaptation of the three-act structure. It breaks the plot into the standard three acts, then each act again is split into three, and each of those chunks are divided into three a final time for 27 parts. This is actually the method I used to outline my novel for Camp in April, and it allows for a lot more flexibility than I expected, and just the right amount of detail I wanted for my main plot. A couple afternoons of solid brainstorming and I was good to go. I’ll need to go back and prod the story for some layers and subplots, but I found her outline matched well with my way of plotting, and it may do the same for others.
If you made it to the bottom of this post, and gone through all the links I’ve provided, I’m sure you know just how inconclusive topics like plot outlining and story structure are. Just putting this post together had me spinning in circles several times. Many of the above methods I have tried or experimented with in the past with varying success. Hopefully there is enough variation here that you find a method that suits you best. Happy Plotting!