How to Outline for NaNoWriMo: Should You Outline Your Novel?

How to Outline for NaNoWriMo: Should You Outline Your Novel?

How to Outline for NaNoWriMo: Should You Outline Your Novel?Welcome to October—otherwise known as Cram Like Crazy for National Novel Writing Month (maybe we should call it LiCraFoNaNoMoWriMo—it’s got a certain ring, right?). Maybe you’re a NaNo veteran. Maybe you’re a tentative first-timer. Or maybe you’re not interested in writing 50,000 words in 30 days, but just want to figure out should you outline your novel and how?

Maybe you’re intimidated by outlines. They seem like a lot of work. They seem like maybe they’ll rob half of the fun of actually writing the book.

Or maybe you’re confused by the whole idea of outlining. What exactly is a novel outline? How do you know where to start? And why does even bringing up the topic seem like launching the first mortar in the dirty border war between Plotters and Pantsers?

Not to worry. You’re about to learn how to love the outline by making it your own. Even better, whether you’re preparing for NaNo next month or just wanting to crack the code on preparing for your next novel, I’m going to show you the secrets of advanced outlining.

How to Outline for NaNoWriMo (or any other month): The Definitive Guide

Outlining Your Novel 500

Outlining Your Novel (Amazon affiliate link)

As many of you probably know, my career as a writing teacher and mentor was basically launched when my first writing how-to book Outlining Your Novel became a surprise hit. Five years ago, when I published the book, I had absolutely no idea how hungry writers were for help outlining their novels.

I wrote the book simply because outlining was something that worked so well for me and was a topic I was passionate about. Even now, Outlining Your Novel remains my most popular book. In it, I explained the basic outlining system I used at the time. I still use that same system, but it’s grown as I’ve grown and been refined as I’ve refined my writing process.

Since I’ve (shockingly) never done a complete series on outlining (which I need in order to round out my series on story structure and character arcs), I figured it was long past time to remedy that—and NaNoWriMo is the perfect opportunity to launch a definitive series on my updated outlining process.

Over the next few months, I’m going to walk you through the next step up in outlining your novel. If you haven’t read Outlining Your Novel, I recommend starting there, since it will provide the foundation for the next-gen techniques I’ll be talking about. You can also get an overview of the outlining process I recommend in this post from last year’s NaNo series: 6 Tasks You’ll Love Yourself for Checking Off Your NaNo Pre-Writing List.

You can also find all kinds of guided help for creating your own best outline in my Outlining Your Novel Workbook software.

Before we dive headfirst into the nitty-gritty of how to outline for NaNoWriMo (or any other month), let’s cover some important basics about the what, why, and how of outlining.

The 3 Types of Outline

Before you can understand how to outline, you must first understand what an outline is–and how to know the answer to, “Should you outline your novel?” Sounds basic, but there are a surprising number of options authors might be talking about when they say they’re “outlining.”

Here are the top three:

1. Does Outlining Mean Listing Scenes?

This is probably the most common understanding of an outline. It harks back to those crazy Roman-numeral outlines we were required to complete in high school (and which, if you were anything like me, you probably put together after the fact, once you’d already written your report or book review).

Roman Numeral Outline of Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland

An early (failed) Roman-numeraled scene-list outline I started and discarded when discovering my outlining process while writing my medieval epic Behold the Dawn.

Scene-list outlines often give writers the willies. Just sitting down and creating a list of events that might happen in your story seems mind-numbing. How can that not inevitably sap all the joy out of actually creating and discovering the story? If you have to follow that dry old outline while writing the first draft, where’s the fun of storytelling?

This understanding, by itself, is single-handedly responsible for scaring many authors away from outlining.

2. Does Outlining Mean Creating Story Structure?

The second most popular—and much more accurate—approach to outlines is the idea of creating a viable story structure for your novel before you actually start the first draft.

In essence, this approach actually isn’t that different from the scene list. But instead of randomly listing one scene after another, you’re focusing on the major plot points and other structural moments and making sure they’re all accounted for roundabout their proper timing.

Structuring Your Novel Visual Chart

This approach is a part of outlining. But by itself, it isn’t outlining. By itself, it also creates far too great a risk of sapping the creativity and spontaneity right out of your process.

3. Does Outlining Mean Brainstorming Your Story?

So… if outlining isn’t simply listing scenes or figuring out the story structure ahead of time—what is it?

I once received an email from a disgruntled reader complaining that my approach to outlining “never talked about outlining.” I sat there for a minute, just thinking, “Uh, whaa?”

What I then realized was that this reader failed to understand the fundamental nature of a successful and nurturing outline.

Outlining is brainstorming, pure and simple.

Outlining isn’t a process of sitting down for thirty minutes and coming up with a list of scenes that fits the Three-Act structure. Not at all. Honestly, I shudder at just the thought. No wonder people get scared and bored by outlines if that’s how they’re approaching them!

K.M. Weiland asking, Should you outline your novel?

Should you outline your novel? Turns out it’s shockingly fun.

What outlining should be is a process of discovery.

When you sit down to outline your story, you are entering an exciting zone of creativity, in which you’re embracing and sorting through all your story’s vast possibilities. You’re asking informed questions to help you narrow down your story’s best possibilities, so you can enter your first draft equipped to write it in the best way.

In short, outlining is all three of the above approaches rolled into one. Eventually, as you refine your outlining process, you’re certainly going to be brainstorming story structure and scene lists. But if you try to create scenes and structure without entering through the door of creativity, you’ll be setting yourself for several major pitfalls, including:

  • Stilted stories.
  • Boring first drafts.
  • Loss of interest in the story.
  • Painful preparation.

If you’ve experienced any of the above in previous outlining attempts, you can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Your outlining is about to get really, really fun.

But first…

Let Me Blow Your Minds: No Such Things as “Plotters” and “Pantsers”

Very likely, when you started reading this article, you identified yourself as belonging to one of two adamant and often antagonistic camps withing the writing world: plotters (aka outliners) or pantsers (aka those who write by the seat of their pants).

The ongoing feud between these two camps is legendary. Mostly it consists of everyone thinking their way is better and resenting the other camp for doing the same.

I used to be a proud card-holding member of Outliners In Your Face. But then I realized two things, in this order:

Epiphany #1: Who cares what people do if it works for them? Certainly, there are great authors in both camps, so there is no concrete proof that one approach is better than the other.

Epiphany #2: The whole concept of “plotting vs. pantsing” is a shell game. There’s no such thing.

Say what?

Here’s a guarantee I feel absolutely safe in making: no matter who you are or how you prefer to approach writing, you cannot be exclusively a plotter or a pantser. You’re both. We all are.

We all plan some parts of our stories—whether it’s extensively on paper, exclusively in our heads, or retroactively during revision.

We all pants some parts of our stories—whether it’s coming up with interesting scenes while brainstorming the outline, diving headfirst into a first draft with no idea where a scene is going, or just piecing together the specifics of generally planned scenes.

Please note this declaration isn’t just my well-intentioned attempt to end the war. Rather, this is an important realization for any author: we need both parts of our brains when we write. Creativity and Logic. Pantsing and Plotting.

You do not have to fit yourself into one box or the other. You’re free to flow from one box to the next box according to your own preference. You may spend most of your process in the plotting box, or you may spend most of it in the pantsing box. Doesn’t matter. Writing is all about gathering all the tools at your disposal and finding the approach that best optimizes your creativity in that particular moment.

In short, even if you prefer to spend very little time in the planning stage before diving into the first draft, you can still benefit from an understanding of plotting and outlining.

Should You Outline Your Novel?

And that brings us to the first and foremost question facing any author getting ready to write that next book.

Should you outline your novel before the first draft? And, if you do, how much is the right amount of outlining for you?

I’m prejudiced, of course. I think my approach is the best.

The novel is ultimately a complex and logical problem. When you approach it as an equation to be solved creatively within the bumper lane of the outline, you allow yourself enough space to make brilliant mistakes and avoid time-sucking dead ends later on.

Getting the story straight before you begin your first draft means you can clear all that space in your brain to then worry about getting your prose right and crafting your narrative to best bring your characters to life.

This isn’t to say an outline is the only way to solve the equation of your novel. But outlines make the difficult task of writing a novel much less difficult. If your storytelling instincts aren’t yet honed to perfection, outlines allow you to use all of your brain to create a brilliant architectural blueprint before you order all the supplies and go out there to build an amazing suspension bridge or skyscraper.

Storming Outline Transcript

Click the image to download an example of my own completed outline from my aviation-adventure novel Storming.

The outlining approach I use and teach is seriously in-depth. My finished outlines can run as much as 50,000 words in their own right and take me several months to complete. Some writers choke on this. But aside from the fact that all the time spent on outlines is just plain fun, I’m also spared the doubt and frustration of first drafts that don’t work. My first drafts flow, and, even better, they usually require very little in the way of major revision.

Sound good?

Good. Starting next Monday, we’re going to dive into the best ways to maximize your creativity, answer your novel’s most pressing questions, and create an outline that will deliver solid first drafts.

And the best part? You get to pick and choose which pieces of this method work for you and your specialized mix of plotting and pantsing!

Stay Tuned: Next week, we’re going to talk about the first four questions you need to ask yourself about your story when you start outlining.

Previous NaNoWriMo Posts:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Should you outline your novel? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Great timing, Kate. I’m already planning on doing an outline this month! Not sure if I’ll do NaNoWriMo this year though. I’m considering getting more brainstorming done and working at my own pace.

    I hate to be categorized as one or the other, pantser or plotter, but I love the idea of maximizing or streamlining our creativity and refining our writing process. Being a more balanced writer sounds like success to me, which has been my quest thus far. The war of pantser vs outliner is fruitless anyway. Everyone needs to discover what works for them. Finding the right amount of *balance* of pantsing and outlining is a science each has to discover for themselves. That can only happen by much practice.

    We should completely debunk the pantsing and plotter mindset. That you have to be one or the other. We’re both. Every human being is living proof of this, and virtually all forms of life on the planet. Biological life is FULL of structure and fluidity. Our own bodies exist in a very defined structure anatomically; from the largest frame and down to the cellular and molecular level. Actually according anatomy & physiology, structure determines function. The structure or anatomy is planned, whereas the function is organic. Even though there’s *tons* of structure our body is extremely fluid and adaptable to any situation as it arises. It has full capability of spontaneity according to its enviroment. In other words, we are quite literally a composition of both structure and function, outlining and pantsing. Everything exists in balance; and those who find the right amount for *them* will become the best writers.

    Looking foward to hearing your up-to-date refined outlining process. Shall we call it—Kate 2.0? Or like you said, next generation outlining? That does have a nice ring to it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Either/or” is almost always a limiting and even destructive mindset. So much better to look for what we can each glean in any system. This doesn’t mean each individual doesn’t have his or her optimal way of doing things, but it let us each be an individual instead of pigeonholing our mindsets.

  2. I agree that disputes about the merits of ‘pantsing’ or ‘plotting’ serve no good purpose to any of us. We all do a little of both… well most of us, anyway.

    I have a damn great bucket load of admiration for those who can ‘outline’, or plan their whole plot before writing it. I don’t outline a novel at all before I start writing. I just can’t… there, I’ve admitted it.

    I’ve tried planning, but no way can I come up with a story to outline until I’ve written enough of a novel for my characters to suggest where the story’s going.

    I write crime novels. I choose two or three themes that I’d like to include in my next book then write scenes around them that I can then organise into some kind of chronological order. I then develop those into separate threads which run parallel as they progress.

    When I get to that stage… usually about fifty thousand words in, and having got those threads running… an idea will come to me about an ending (usually based on one of those threads). I’ll then write a scene that would be a suitable climax to the plot (allowing that I like to add a twist in the tail after that ending).

    Once I’ve got a clue where the story’s going, I can steer the threads I’ve written towards that ending, hopefully twisting them all together into some kind of tension that can be released at the climax. That’s about as close to planning my plots that I’ve managed to do so far.

    Writing this way means that I don’t really have a clue what my characters are going to do until they do it. If I have to keep ‘turning pages’ to find out what’s happening next, hopefully my readers will too. It seems to work for me… at least it has done well enough for six full length novels (two published… four with my publisher), as well as also writing two prequels to my series – one, a short story, and one novella length (both published as e-books).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I have a tremendous load of respect for writers who can just pants a brilliant novel. In all honesty, I feel that takes way more talent. But I can’t do it. Tried it, hated it. I have so much more fun and write so much better stories when I have a plan.

  3. Thanks, Katie. I participated in NaNoWriMo last year as a total pantser and though I won, I had to bear the brunt of not outlining my novel properly later this year. But this year, I’ve decided to become a hardcore plotter like you and just devote this month entirely to NaNoWriMo prepping, calling October NaNoPrepMo (Janice Hardy created that term). Thanks a bunch for the post, 🙂 🙂

  4. Tom Younjohn says

    Hahaha. Fooled you. Snatched your glory I should say. I just read this. And Now I’m gonna Listen to it. I’m going to have it twice. Muhahahaha!

  5. Not only should you outline, you should use the remainder of October to read Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel, as I just have. What follows flows SO much more smoothly! Chris, if you’re interested in giving it a try, you just may find Katie’s method will help you overcome your aversion/inability to outline–it’s not what you think.

  6. Nice. I have a new novel idea I’m starting to outline and this is the perfect time for this series.

  7. With you completely. I outline first, then within the structure of my outline, I pants and the characters take over from there. They are tricky little beings that only use me for my world building and typing skills.

  8. Hi! Thank you a lot for this useful article. 🙂

    One question: what exactly is “pantsing” compared to plotting?

  9. Throughout my schooling, I was always someone who had to outline my thoughts before I could actually get going on my writing. I have great admiration to those who can fly by the seat of their pants because that takes a ton of discipline and concentration to accomplish.

    After spending nearly a decade in college, whether it be my undergraduate program or law school, I have written far too many educational and legal pieces. I am currently preparing to write my first fiction novel and will definitely be putting your outlining techniques to use.

    Thank you for offering all of this great insight for aspiring writers!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I think outliners tend to get the credit for massive discipline and focus–but I’ve always felt pantsing was ultimately what required the greater devotion and storytelling awareness.

  10. I have ‘Structuring’ but not ‘Outlining.’ I’ll have to rectify that.

    I outline, but my entire life I’ve tended to do everything in my head while resisting writing things down. The writing brings an expectation of formality which creates anxiety – so for me it was best when it’s as extemporaneous as possible.

    I prefer starting with a general vision that hits all the plot points, such as I summarized in my comment to Usvaldo’s piece the other day. Then I focus on particular sections and see greater detail.

    When I get a plot idea I usually see the whole thread, and will jot that down, or even do first drafts of the scenes in the thread, for future reference.

    When I start a scene, I know where it starts, where I want it to end and what it’s supposed to achieve – what points do I want to make or facts to establish? Crumbs to drop in a precursors to later scenes. Then I relax, visualize, and let it play out in my head. One of the problems is that I most often visualize the scenes away from the keyboard – while walking, driving, showering, etc, and then have to remember all the clever dialogue until I can get back to my computer!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      People sometimes tend to dismiss “outlining in your head.” It’s still outlining, it’s still valid, and it still totally works. I outline in my head for a long period before committing anything to paper–and it’s always my single favorite part of the process, bar none.

      • I define complex mathematical models in my head and then sit down to write the code. For me, that’s the same as when you say “the novel is ultimately a complex and logical problem.”

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I’m a complete dunce at math, but, yes, exactly. 🙂

          • Spending more time pondering this piece, I realize that I roughly outline all the major points (and still fiddle with the things to come) but save the details for when I start writing a scene. Then I jot those down so as they’re at hand and I don’t have to remember them , but I often end up not looking at them anyway.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Yes, it’s funny how our brains are more likely to remember things all by themselves once we actually go to the trouble of writing them down.

  11. I tried outlining, but I’ve found that it’s better for me to be very loose with my ideas. I get a good grip on who my characters are pretty quickly, and once I have that, I can go ahead and write. I don’t have very complicated stories, so that probably helps me. I just can’t plan ahead of time in concrete form (in a notebook or on a computer) because I start overthinking my story and what could happen, and I nearly ruined a story that way. I also don’t mind rewriting (more time to spend in that story world!) so that’s also not a problem for me in not outlining.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I do think complexity plays a role. If you’re not doing super-complex characters and plot lines, a heavy-duty outline can simply be overkill. It’s wise to recognize that and let it shape your process.

  12. One of the things I do well is organize. But people look at me and say “I need you to get me organized.” What they don’t understand is that my organization is a part of me, it flows out of me naturally. I can organize their stuff, I can show them how I do it, but ultimately, if they aren’t comfortable with my “style”, they won’t keep it up and it will all fall apart eventually.

    This seems to be the same sort of thing. Outline, don’t outline? It has to work for you or you won’t do it (though it can’t work for you if you don’t try it). I will be interested in seeing your method that makes it “fun”.

    At a glance, I am a “pantser” (or so I would be labeled by others), but what they don’t see is what is going on in my head. I may not write out a formal outline on paper, but I’m working through it in my head – “what needs to happen next?” And, to a certain extent, my outline is the way I lay it out in Word. I don’t write in a linear manner – start at the beginning and work straight through to the end. I write whatever comes to mind, but then I approximately place it in Word about where it will eventually go. Then I know what I’m writing toward. If the story seems to be going in a different direction, I move that bit elsewhere or dump it (at least from that story). So that forms my outline – those little segments of action/dialogue placed roughly in order.

    – Deandra

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Exactly! “Outliner” and “pantser” are such completely arbitrary terms. Preparation happens in many different ways, not all of which are visible to others.

  13. Hi KM! Normally I never comment on these articles, but it feels like you wrote this one SPECIFICALLY for me. I’m in the process of outlining my first novel now!

    This is the first time I’ve ever had to plan out such a long story, and I am loving it so far. I hadn’t even thought about NaNoWriMo, but now that you mention it, it’s a perfect “soft deadline” for the writing I want to get done.

    Just wanted to say thanks for the advice. Your articles have brought my writing farther than anything else I’ve read. Super excited for the next few weeks on outlining.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yay! Welcome to the fun new world of outlining. I believe the key in the early days is not putting too much pressure on yourself to get the process “right.” Just keep flowing with whatever feels like it’s working the best. If it’s not fulfilling, that usually a sign it’s wrong for you at that moment. Your own best process will emerge on its own.

  14. Fantastic! I discovered your scrivener template yesterday which I spent a good few hours fiddling with to suit my needs(At least, I think it was yours? I was a hot mess of tabs doing research!) I am most definitely an out liner and I do way more outlining than writing which is a downfall of mine. Which is why I love NaNo because it forces me to start writing! I will be buying your outlining book later today when the kidlet goes to bed for a read. 🙂

    • Oh my…You have other yummy books I want to read too! This is good and bad lol. I want to write not read! haha.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Getting stuck in the outline is definitely a pitfall to be aware of. It can become a delaying tactic just like anything else. But it’s also fine to spend a lot of time on the outline, as long as it’s all purpose-driven and ends up positively affecting the drafting process. I generally spend several concentrated months on my outline–to the point I often consider my outline to be my “messy first draft.”

  15. I really loved the worksheet you posted. I have been searching for a tool like that to help me visualize all these plot and pinch-points laid out the way you describe them. Do you know where I can find that sheet in a larger, legible form?

  16. The thing I need to work on is chapter breaks. Any idea on how I can do that? I mean, I’m good with coming up with ideas and all, but not so much separating my ideas into chapters.

  17. Like Carly, I seem to go through small stall outs with outlining by chapter.

    I found it easier and smoother for me to divide my progressing WIPs by scenes. Then shift around the scenes into chapters later on. I end up with chapters of different lengths but they seem ‘more correct’ to me then. Doing this makes sense to me, but I also wonder if I’m making the whole process of creating ‘official’ chapters harder on myself by adding in this extra step.

    I know some books create chapter breaks strictly by word count, others are creatively all over the place. I would imagine most anything is acceptable if it suits the genre and the writing is good enough? Me…I’m definitely not feeling like I’m in that place of surefooted kismet. I’m trying to not let it bother me too much but wonder if I should change this habit now before it gets too ingrained, or just go with what works for myself because it’ll all work out in the end, hopefully!

    I’m in the process of reading Outlining now, but I’ve not gotten far enough into it yet on this aspect. Great book, btw! I’ve put the diagram on my Bat Cave wall with sticky notes.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, totally! I always outline by scene. As I talked about in that recent post on chapters and scenes, scenes are integral to story structure, while chapters are arbitrary. It’s much more important to get the scenes right early on than it is the chapter breaks.

      • Thank you for the link, Katie! I’m not sure what planet I was on but I totally missed it. Life in general and it’s usual mayhem.

        It’s as if you handed me this post written specific to my comment here, and couldn’t have been more on the nose of what I was asking about if it tried. I appreciate your help tremendously.

        I’ll get beyond kindergarten level writing yet!

  18. So much for bursting our bubbles, Katie!
    What a relief–we can be both plotters and pantsers, and, we actually are!
    The essence of it all is that we should grow as writers.
    As we should grow and mature as human beings too.
    (And, hopefully mature like good wine and not turn into vinegar. It’s a choice.)
    Seems logical many would argue. It’s a Duh-statement. Not necessarily. It is determined by decisions we make–every day.
    Day after day after day.
    What do I read? Who do I read? Who do I associate with, spent time with? How much of myself do I give? How much and how often do I challenge myself?
    Thanks, Katie!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great thoughts. I find writing to be a great act of positivism. In becoming better writers, we become better people.

  19. This is such a timely post, K.M. It’s my first time attempting NaNoWriMo. I’ll be devouring your expertise along the way. Thanks!

  20. Wonderful post K.M. Last year was my first time doing Nanowrimo. I branded myself a pantser, mostly because the idea of planning my novel gave me hives. It’s not my nature to plan ANYTHING. I wrote the novel. One year later, I can’t get myself to read past the first 5 pages of my first draft.

    I’ve done some growing up, lots of reading and I’ve already written 13 k words for a whole other book. I started it out by planning the major points I want to discuss and from there it all kind of flowed.

    I look forward to your post next monday. I do have a question though. The book I am currently writing is half memoir half self help. Maybe mostly self help. So I am wondering if the same rules apply with outlining fiction vs. nonfiction and if your next post will be of benefit to me?

    Thank you my dear

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Non-fiction, in general, is a little different. It doesn’t require the same amount of creative “circular” thinking that stories do and therefore the outlines can be much more linear and straight-forward. However, memoir is very similar to fiction in form and structure. Depending on whether your story is closer to the memoir form than the self-help form, you can definitely use all of the fiction outlining techniques I’ll be discussing.

  21. I really enjoyed your article on outlining – I found your points to be quite useful. My own approach has been to combine outlining and mindmapping (with the occasional gantt chart) when developing either an overall story structure or specific scenes. Seems to merge the worlds of pantsing and plotting into one universe – for myself at least. Again, thanks for a very useful article!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My approach to outlining is kinda mind mapping without the map. :p I do the same flow of thought connection, but without the visual bubbles. I usually want to develop ideas too much as I go to fit into the bubble format.

  22. I have to admit I did #1 – listing scenes after I identified the key events and points… and then when I changed my key events, I went back to my list of scenes and felt OVERWHELMED. I just felt scared and tired. And then I read this post, where you said outlining is fun. *sigh* I forgot about that – that it can be fun and exciting.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Writing is hard, no question, and we have to embrace that. But if we’re suffering major resistance to any part of the process, that’s usually a sign we’re doing something wrong. If it’s not fun, it’s always worth stepping back and evaluating why not–and what it would take to make it fun again.

      • I’m currently reading your book Outlining your novel, recommended to me in a writer’s group. I really wish I read this book sooner. I’m currently on chapter 6. I took notes and this book helps clarify your posts on outlining.

        I like how you used the movie Gladiator, one of my favorite movies as an example as well.

      • Brenda Williams says

        I can relate to this topic. At first I was a pancer. I have just started outlining. It is very interesting. I think that’s why I lost interest. I wrote the whole book and realized there was so much I missed and started over. Now I have things happening that I didn’t in the first sloppy draft. It’s amazing how much more interesting it became. Thank you so much for your helping writer’s become authors.

  23. Hannah Killian says

    I don’t think I outlined enough for my story. . .I’m pretty sure it’s a mess right now.

  24. Grandma K says

    hello! i would like to order your two books. i am 77 working on my first story and am stuck.
    No idea where to go after editing the first draft of 365 double spaced pages. this first heart endeavor will not be my last if i can get “unstuck” and i think i need your experienced opinion
    and will outline and see if that re-boots my love for getting over the hump.
    thanks for listening, Grandma K
    p.s. i do not have paypal so would i be able to write you a check?

  25. Is outlining included in your writing time? or do you have a time specifically for writing something and then outline during a separate time?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes. I count whatever part of the process I’m currently working on as “writing time.” Whether I’m outlining, researching, writing, or editing, that’s my focus for my daily writing time.

  26. TheTimeIsWrite says

    Is it possible to outline your novel after you write it? In my mind, you could make more complex characters arcs and scenes this way.

  27. Irrevenant says

    “CraLiFoNaNoMoWriMo” should be “CraLiCraFoNaNoWriMo”.

    Just sayin’

  28. Hi Ms. Weiland!

    I have been following your blog for quite a while now and have really enjoyed it! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve done a recommendation for your blog on my blog here: 🙂

  29. I write short stories and flash fiction and am working on my first novel right now. After starting my novel and writing a few short stories, I realized I hated the short stories I had outlined even more than I normally despised my own writing(except my novel, I’m actually liking it)! I haven’t outlined since. But when I was reading this I realized I have an entire outline of important events in my novel in my head and it was like, MIND BLOWN!

    In all seriousness though, I have found that my writing feels more natural when its off the top of my head so I only think about important plot events like deaths (everyone in my novel dies) and the ending.

    Your website has been a big help with characters, keep up the good work!

    P.S. Don’t mean to bother you, don’t answer if you don’t want to, but I saw your author bio and was wondering if you are christian? Just out of curiosity. Don’t feel like you’ve got to answer.

  30. Nadia Syeda says

    This series is tremendously helpful. At first, I tried following it point-by-point but then I realized that although it’s important to pay attention to your left brain, you also have to respect the right brain, especially when you’re more a writer than a storyteller.

    So I created an approach that suits me quite well. First I write a vague sketch and fill in any obvious plotholes. I identify the motivations of the characters and their goals and just nail down a basic template.Then I follow the vague sketch and let my characters guide me through the first draft. Of course, the first draft isn’t perfect, which is where your handy extensive outlining approach comes in. After the first draft, I now know my characters pretty well and I don’t feel like I’m creating nothing out of nothing when I’m outlining. I have something to work with. The first draft is basically a brainstorm. Then I take the raw ideas and refine them using the outlining process and the second draft will be much more structured, cohesive, and put-together. It’s an approach that allows me to tap into my creativity and also not waste time wandering through dozens of dead ends.

  31. I accidentally wrote nearly 20K words of a novel before I realized I was even writing one. I had no plan at first and stopped writing to try to figure out a way to organize it – that was four years ago. Having grown massively frustrated, I didn’t look at it again until about a week ago, still without a plan and no plan as to how to get a plan. Then, I found my way here. I just finished your Outlining book – borrowed from the library until my copy arrives – and the workbook just came Saturday so, I have been trying to figure out how to apply what I am learning to the novel that I started before I knew what a pantser or a plotter even was.

    So, my question, and I believe I know what the answer is going to be is:
    How in the world do I start an outline when I’ve already started telling the story?
    I feel as though, the right place to begin – PLEASE correct me if you disagree – is by writing down what I already know (got that idea from your outline for Storming) about the story and the characters and move forward from there.

    Oh, maybe one other question – at what point should I edit the 20K words I already have? Should I do that in conjunction with my new efforts at putting the outline together since they kind of are the outline right now or do I use them to guide my outlining and edit when the story is finished?

    Any guidance you’re able to provide is most appreciated!
    Keep the acorn spinnin’

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      As you may remember, I talk in Outlining Your Novel about how my total conversion to outlining came after I’d written 50k words in my portal fantasy Dreamlander. At that point, my experience pretty much mirrored yours, and I knew I needed to stop and outline before going any further.

      I started that ouline in the same way I would a “virgin” outline–by figuring out the overall shape of the story and particularly the ending. Once I knew that, I went back and started planning the entire story. Some of that work had shortcuts, since I didn’t have to discard everything I’d written up to that point. But in essence I started from scratch and outlined from the top.

  32. I notice that when I try an outline I notice that I always seem to lose interest in my story. Or I get bogged down on the many details of the story when the outline is completed. I don’t know why is that.

  33. Hey Katie! The audio narration for this article is different than the article. Something about scenes vs chapters?


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