Novel Writing

Outlining your Novel

A few days ago I read a blog post by amandagrey1 about Novel writing software, and it got me thinking. To have a look at the post, please follow this link

At the start of my novel, about two months ago, I took up an offer of a free trial with Novlr and I have to say I loved it. In particular, I loved the statistics it gave me. As I work with statistics as a day job I really enjoyed seeing my hobby displayed as numbers too. I did face a big problem, however, and that was issues with the server. I didn’t decide to pay the monthly fee after my trial ran out as so often I would try to log on, the system would be down, and I wouldn’t be able to work on my novel. Because of this, I decided to use OneDrive and Word to write the rest of my book.

However now I am getting myself into a muddle and my writing goals in terms of my outline went out of the window as I no longer had a clear idea of each chapter’s goal and structure. Amandagrey1 on her blog mentioned both Novlr and Litlift and so I decided to try Litlift for a while. I am 30 minutes in and very inspired so far.

There is a fantastic Outline Feature that has helped me to get back on the right track. I initially outlined my whole novel, and then I began itching to write, so I scrapped my detailed planning and started writing straight out of my imagination. Many thousands of words in, I now know my characters so much better. However, when I looked into the outline system on Litlift I found so many weak points.

Firstly my opening chapters had become bogged down with backstory and my main “hook” was left until Chapter 10. Rooky error! Now I have shuffled things around and feel much more confident that my book will grip it’s reader (fingers crossed!) from the start. I also hadn’t introduced my bad guy until later on in the novel, and so moving them into the start of the book has made things much more interesting.

On that day I went from 11,000 words to only keeping 2,000 of them, which was, in all honesty, a little gutting. However, I would much rather find out my weak points now, rather than get further into my story and realise that my plotline was fundamentally flawed. 

I would love to hear about anyone else’s experience with outlining and whether or not you find it helps you. As a new writer I’m looking to get as much advice as I can get!

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13 thoughts on “Outlining your Novel

  1. I write using Scrivener, which is brilliant (although I haven’t used anything else aside from word). It has so many great features, especially that there is a research folder you can pop photos, timelines etc and you can split screen if need be so have the photo in one bit and your words in another. It sounds like you’re getting on really well 🙂

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    1. Ooooh Scrivener does sound interesting. I wish it had a cloud version though. As I write during my lunch breaks I need to be able to write from the net without having to download anything. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

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  2. Hi Amy. Thank you for following my blog and for your nomination on my Kindle Scout campaign.

    As far as outlines go, I don’t know any authors who don’t use an outline … except for me. I’ve been told I need to in order not to have plot holes, like the ones you mentioned you found when you checked back. But, each time I try to write an outline, I feel like it’s bogging me down. Thankfully, I had a wonderful writer’s group for support when I wrote the one on Kindle Scout.

    I say, do whatever feels most comfortable for you. I can imagine how hard it was to cut out all those words you typed, but it sounds like you’re making it nice and tight. Good for you.

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I do feel more inspired now, and much more confident in my plot. I think as this is my first book there will be many occasions where I have to go back and make drastic changes. I love learning about writing though, so thank you for your comment. Your writing style is excellent so not outlining clearly works for you! I look forward reading more about your books (and your books!) in the future 🙂

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  3. Ooo, awesome! I love novel writing software (though I always just end up using Word because I’m boring…). I haven’t heard of these so I might check out LitLift or Novlr. If you want to try one that you download and install (the software is both safe and free; I have it on my computer now), you can try yWriter (it’s for Windows PCs), Link. I like it, though it might be the Scrivener equivalent?

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    1. Oh that does sound good! Unfortunately I do a lot of my writing in different places, work, home, phone so Word and OneDrive are my choice that the moment. Nothing quite beats Word at the end of the day, boring but it always works 🙂 autocrit looks good, when my first and second drafts are done I’m certainly going to use it to help me edit. Have you heard of it before?

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      1. I have not heard of autocrit before. Is it online or a downloadable program?

        I love Word. Yes, it isn’t as much fun as some of the others, but like you said, it always works. And I’ve found that some of the other programs are nice while you’re writing individual pieces (like chapters), but not so good for looking at the big picture.

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      2. Autocrit is an online tool, I gave it a go with my first 5 pages and it was so helpful. It picks up on overused words, slow paragraphs, cliches, and passive voice. It’s fantastic (but a bit pricey!)

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      3. That’s pretty awesome! I may not be able to spend money on it, but if you think about it, it’s like hiring an editor, right? (I mean, sort of… probably not as detailed, but it’s a start, right?) That’s awesome. 🙂

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  4. I am still trying to find out whether to push myself in the category of “Pansters” or “Architects” but I think I fit in none of them. So what I do is like, I have a very loose idea of the conflict and all the scenes but I introduce and fix them in the places whenever I like that this time is good.
    But yes, this habit leads to delay, because ‘architects’ have their plan already but if you don’t have a plan, you’ll be late.
    But who cares? At least, I don’t. I think, the idea that works for me, write something and then add it in your plot. Though I ate my one month just to get a good plotline, see how “lazy” my mind can be.
    Have a great day! 🙂

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