Nanowrimo : Outlining Your Novel

Hopefully for the past week (or weeks) you’ve been thinking about your novel, your characters, your story. Scenes have come to you and begged to been written. Maybe you’ve jotted down some notes, made index cards or a simple timeline.

Image by cloneofsnake.

image by cloneofsnake

I’m going to tell you before you start Nov 1st – Write and Outline.

I know there are those of you out there that are all “I’m going to let the story take me for a ride”

Great – An Outline is going to help you even more along your journey.

Too many people get flustered at the concept of an outline, feel it’s stifling, feel it takes away from the creativity.

I look at it as a challenge. If I need to get the characters from point A to point B how can I do it, while making things exciting and interesting?

You don’t have to go crazy here.

Get a vague sense of where your story is going, know your beginning and end.If you don’t have a destination your novel is doomed to get of left track and find itself lost. And get this, the end can change! But for now pick something you think makes the most sense.

Seriously your outline can be as easy as:

  • Johnny works at McDonalds
  • Johnny learns prophecy
  • Johnny defeats the Robot King and becomes a god.

Fine by me. you’ve got something to work on.

Personally I’m a big fan of the Hero’s Journey aka Monomyth. The basic structure goes something like this:

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting with the Mentor
  5. Crossing First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies & Enemies
  7. Approach to Inmost Cave
  8. The Ordeal
  9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
  10. Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with Elixir
Image by surfsama.

image by surfsama

You look at it and it screams “Fantasy” story. But it can be used in any story.

In ‘Burn After Reading’ Malchovich refuses the Call as he lashes out to being demoted at work.

In ‘No Country for Old Men’ Llewelyn Moss crosses the threshold when he finally decides to run away, to protect his wife.

And so on…

The Hero’s Journey can (and is) used in any genre and can be found even if you’re not looking for it. It’s a natural order to our inherent ability to tell a story.

Don’t look at the Monomyth as a die hard structure. It’s guideline. Meeting the mentor doesn’t always happen at the same point, maybe it happens multiple times, maybe with different mentors. Maybe Not at all.

These are just the base concepts. They’re the root of story. Building blocks to be explored and expanded upon. It’s going to give you idea to fill your universe.

So get yourself ready cause we’re about to go full blast in to the void and create something god like.


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