When I sit down to work on a novel, I need to know a little of where it is going. However, rather than plot out the whole novel (though I do develop a rough idea of how the novel will end), I tend to do it by sections – a few chapters at a time.
I will use my first novel, Summoned, as an example since I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of Destiny (the final book in the trilogy) which comes out November 27th.
When I began I knew that basics. My main character, Lina, would be pulled away from her home and in the end have a confrontation with the man responsible for that. What would happen in between, well, I had some ideas but didn’t write down what would happen each step of the way.
Instead, I planned a few chapters at a time. In this case, I need something that spurs Lina forces her to leave her home (she is kidnapped), and then she needs to meet one of the other main characters Val (he rescues her). With that information as my outline I began to write. Since it is such a loose outline, I am free to let my characters take me anywhere.
And then with each set of chapters I repeat this process while keeping the end story in mind. Now this process may not work for everyone and of course, all of my world building (including drawing maps) and character developing was done well before I even sit down to write or work on the first mini-outline.
Now there are people who can sit down to a blank sheet with no idea where they are going and write. And that works for them, though I imagine there is a lot more rewriting using that method.
On the other end of the spectrum are the real planners. These are the ones writing detailed outlines of where there the novel is going, sometimes even outlining each individual chapter. Actually, plotters come in all different levels and some may decide a one-page synopsis is enough.
There are, of course, numerous benefits for those who outline their novels.
1.) You create a well-developed plot/storyline
2.) You are never at a loss about to write next
3.) You can find problems with your plot or characters sooner (and correct them)
4.) Less rewriting
Now there are no hard-and-fast rules about outlining your novel but if you need help, there are numerous sites with tips and even step-by-step directions.
Plotter, pantser or hybrid – if you need help understanding the different styles, check out this blog that uses mountain climbers as an analogy for the different writing styles. However, the most important thing is picking out a method that works for you.