Outlines are one of the best tools for sizing up your novel. If you pantsed your novel, or used a different type of planning tool then it is high time to get started on an outline.

A basic outline is easy to use and easy to adjust. It is an excellent tool for looking over the story arc of your novel and making sure that you have everything together. I usually make one after my first draft and before I begin editing, revising or rewriting my novel. It is in this process that I can see what needs to be added, condensed or rearranged for dramatic effect. Here in an example from the novel I am currently editing.

  1. IV Chapter Four: Suspects Old and New 
    1. Levante discusses his brother Big Q
    2. Charlie and The Chief go through security at the prison to intervew Dario McBride and LeSteven Hayes
    3. Dario McBride is interviewed
      1. Names Big Q or T-Dog as Tamara's supplier
      2. Puts his money on Mark as the killer
      3. The Pterodactyl Club is his alibi
    4. LeSteven Hayes is interviewd
      1. Fears Dario is the killer
      2. Fear Mark is the killer
      3. Has heard rumors in prison D Street may have had his mom killed

So this is how an outline works, in Roman Numerals, V represents the separate chapter in the book. So briefly, up to this point the outline looks like this.
I-Prologue (Single Scene Opening)
II-Chapter One
III-Chapter Two
IV-Chapter Three
V-Chapter Four

Suspects Old and New is the working title of the chapter. I might change or delete this later depending on the novel's needs, but in the beginning I always have a working title that tells me what I want to get accomplished in the chapter. This way, I'm not lost. As an audiobook narrator, I will never (again) drop the chapter number. It just makes it so much easier when uploading the files, to record them by chapter and then to have the number so I don't have to look back. I'm never lost. It may be old fashioned, but it works for me.

The Highlights This is my note. On the first pass through this chapter, I realized, I had completely dropped the T-Dog lead. This lead me to add another chapter dealing with the lead and all of the fallout surrounding it. It may be when I come back in a few days to deal with this oversight, I take all of those scenes and farm them out over a few chapters, to change the tension of the novel. But for now, I'm just fixing the basics of the story. Likewise, an outline can show you if you've written the same scene over and over again, made up two characters that perform the same function, etc. I've found the outline to be the best tool for sizing up my novels. I'm confident you will too.

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Please leave a comment below and tell me about your experiences with outlining.


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