Turning the Chaos into Order
One of the first questions a writer asks is, “Where do I begin?” Some writers love to dive into their manuscripts sight unseen and just write; these are the Pantsters. They bear this title because they write by the seat of their pants. Then there are the Planners. These are the ones that stick to a meticulous outline. They know exactly where they are going from the “Once upon a time…” until their characters take their final bow. Finally, there is a melding of the two, the Planster, the writer who strategically blends both worlds.
Today we will focus on the Planner and how to answer our opening question. We aim to help you sort out the craziness floating through your head right now and put those thoughts onto paper. Then, help you on your way to creating your masterpiece and get it on bookshelves, then into the hands of your readers.
Tip One: Begin with Your Characters
Every good book begins with your main character, or MC for short. They will be the heart and soul of your book. When you begin your outline, it’s best to know your MC inside and out. We suggest creating a written history of them. This will help you better write them and not change their eye color in chapter twelve by mistake. It wouldn’t hurt to do this for every character you intend to write.
Tip Two: Have an Idea of Your Setting
Know the area about which you are writing. If you have never written about Seattle and plan to write a love story set there, then you should understand its seasons. You can’t write about a heatwave of 112 degrees when that region doesn’t have that type of weather. You want your reader to feel like they are there and recognize it if they have vacationed there. It will further draw them into the story. Inconsistencies will lose your reader.
Tip Three: You Don’t Need to Know Everything
This is just that, an outline. You don’t need to know the ending. True, an outliner will generally know how their novel ends, perhaps in detail, but if you don’t, don’t sweat it. Write the details you do know and just write. It will come to you as you go through the writing process. One day or night, as you are tossing and turning, it will hit you. Just promise me one thing, if it is in the middle of the night, GET UP AND WRITE IT DOWN, don’t think you will remember… you won’t.
Tip Four: Be Open to Changes Later but Make it Your Bible
With writing an outline, there will always be the feeling that what you have written there must be adhered to. Well, let me assure you, it’s not. You can make changes at any time. You are the author. It is your piece, and you can make any changes you feel are necessary along the way. Let me warn you, though, just be wary of the domino effect. What you change affects what you have already written. If you decide to change a personality trait, or that Bob is now from Kentucky, then you must go back and change every instance that you mentioned previously. —see the importance of a character history now?
Tip Five: Have Fun with It
Okay, now that I scared you for a second, let me redeem myself by telling you the most important thing about creating an outline. Have fun with it. This is your world you are creating. There are no specific rules you have to follow. These are merely tips to guide you to have a successful journey. Are there more, sure. You can add details of these steps if you choose; it’s your outline, get as detailed as you choose. But don’t forget that writing is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t know something. Know that as you write, that missing piece will come. The chaos in your head will become order. It always does. And when that lightbulb brightens, you will realize how much more exciting this journey really is.