A NOVEL JOURNEY
Writing & Publishing A Novel
I started writing short stories when I was four years old.
It’s a hard habit to kick, so when my stories grew too big for a few pages I literally had no idea how to tame a larger piece and just started writing page after page without any planning. What I ended up with was a jumble of words that resembled a labyrinth or discount bin at Target more than a novel.
I needed some semblance of a plan.
But when I tried neatly outlining by hand on a legal pad, that didn’t work either. My brain could wrap around individual scenes but not in any reasonable order. I ended up crossing out and restarting half a dozen times. Finally, I realized the answer was simple-ish. One closet door and stacks of post-its later, the real planning had begun. Here’s how I outline – part one.
Color-coding helps. It enables me to sort ideas into the three acts of the novel. (See my Save the Cat post for more info.) I can move around the plot points, attach them to each other, and even code further with quick visuals for subplots, too.
For me, planning backwards makes sense. I need to know how things work out so I can subtly drop clues – and sometimes misdirection – throughout. The post-its allow me to constantly reassess how well those hints are spaced out and where they need to go.
Finally, the post-its make the project feel more manageable. Be still my short story heart. Each square is a scene, not a chapter, and I can focus my energy on perfecting these moments while always keeping a cautionary eye on the full landscape of the novel.
There are a million different ways to outline, but a door and post-its somehow work for me.