We have already discussed the pros and cons of having an outline (or map) to help with closing plot holes, ensuring you have the right number of characters for your story, and that there are enough scenes to tell a satisfying story.
What we haven’t talked about is how to start the outline. I know how intimidating a blank page can be when your story is nothing but a vague series of snippets in your head.
To help overcome this initial anxiety, some people like morning pages. Others keep a notebook and write down bit over time until there is enough material to pull it all together. Unfortunately, neither of these methods has ever been of much help to me.
If you have had similar experiences, you might want to try the doodle method. And it goes like this:
1. Start with a blank sheet of paper (I did mine with the doodle feature in Evernote but you don’t have to be fancy). Take any pen and write ‘story doodle’ at the top of the paper.
2. That’s a good way to cheapen it up a little and reduce anxiety of ruining the page. Expect it to look terrible. Don’t pressure yourself to make this pretty! That’s very important.
3. The put the working title (if you have one) of your novel onto the centre of your paper and draw a bubble around it. Then identify the main themes of your story and write them spaced out around the centre bubble. Draw bubbles around each of these too and connect them to the centre bubble. I like to include a bubble for ‘characters’ but this can be done separately if you prefer.
4. Now start filling in information around each bubble and connect your notes with relevant bubbles (connect notes to several bubbles if applicable.
When you finish you should have something like this:
Tadaa! Your first draft outline is complete. This one took about 20 minutes, so perfect if you don’t have much time for your writing. I use my story doodle as a point of reference to help with populating my story grid and character profiles…and when I’m stuck.
See you next time 😉
If you try a story doodle or have a similar (or maybe even better) method to get a story outline started, please share your experience in the comments section below this post. I would love to hear from you.