NaNoWriMo Outlining

I’m midway through writing out an outline for my NaNoWriMo novel. What bothers me about outlining is that there’s a fine line I walk between outlining too much and outlining too little.

If I make the outline too detailed, then I feel boxed in. I feel that I have to write exactly what happens and there’s not a lot of room for creativity and random ideas to come out during the actual writing.

If I don’t make the outline detailed enough, I’m often stumped on where to go next – or I have a hard time fleshing out the chapters and making them longer.

So instead of writing a one-page outline for each chapter (too detailed) or writing a one-sentence description of each chapter (not detailed enough), I opted to write just a small paragraph. It’s enough details to get me where I need to go in the plot, but not so many details that my creativity becomes stifled.

And I realized while doing Camp NaNoWriMo in July that I cannot go without an outline. I have to have some form of planning tool or else I’ll be utterly lost and crazy, unpublishable things will start happening in the story. I know NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a time for craziness, but sometimes the insanity just gets to be a little too overwhelming.

So… do you outline? How in-depth are your outlines?

13 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Outlining

  1. I have never outlined anything.

    Which is not to say that I’m a total pantser; with the mystery stories I’ve sometimes had a pretty solid idea where the story was going. In a couple of cases I even knew in advance who the murderer was. But I’ve never structured it beyond that, and I’ve never written anything down.

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  2. I’ve got a few pages of outlines at the moment; it will probably grow over the next few days. I break it down in a fairly rudimentary fashion: one part for characters and character descriptions, one part for places, and one part for the plot progression. Good luck with your novel!

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  3. My outlines are very rough. My last outline was maybe fifteen sentences, scratching in the bare bones of the story. That way at least I have a rough idea, and there’s plenty of room for wild inspiration or characters who pop up out of nowhere.

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

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  4. I’ve never started a novel with an outline . . . but, once I start writing, I keep a list of ideas and jot notes on it of points to consider.

    Good luck this year, Maggie!

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  5. On previous occasions I’ve outlined a lot for NaNoWriMo because I didn’t want to get lost and not know where to go. Usually I don’t outline a lot, and this year I’m … Well, I have notes, but I don’t think an outline of five lines in a notebook really is an outline.

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