So, You Want To Write A Book: Creating a Narrative Outline

 In So you want to write a book

typewriterSo you want to write a novel. You have been throwing around ideas for a while now, but you don’t know where to start, or which story you should invest your time in. You’ve hit a wall and want to get going before your idea becomes stale and your attention drifts to other, less important things. Well there are techniques to getting the ball rolling and I am going to share what works for me. I am not promising miracles or even suggesting that this will work for you, but I am sharing what works for me. So give it a read and maybe a try…

First, and foremost, write your ideas down. If you have them rolling around in that cranium of yours they will likely dissipate, vanish, or morph into something less organic. Don’t write out the whole story just yet, it is far to infantile to jump that far ahead, simply jot down a one paragraph summary. Then sit on it for a day. Run it by friends, family, the guy at Starbucks and see if they think it sounds interesting.

Once you have found the story that connects, calls to you and owns you, map it out from beginning to end. Don’t worry about perfecting anything, nothing is set in stone. You just need to create a skeleton of what your manuscript might become, but don’t structure it. At least not yet. This may sound idiotic, but be creative. Don’t get bogged down in the minutia. One way to achieve this is to form story clusters of plots and subplots that connect to a major theme, similar to brainstorming. By doing this, you aren’t stuck on formatting and your imagination runs wild. You might find your subplots are more intriguing than your original idea and that is okay, great in fact. This means your story is taking on a life.

Now that you have your story elements in place, it’s time to straighten out the mess. Draft an elementary outline that takes those main ideas through to the end. Again, don’t worry about the small stuff, think macro, focusing only on major and minor plot points.

Here is a Narrative Guide:

1.    Conflict

                     a.     Determine events of the narrative

                                              i.     What is tearing your world apart?

2.     Rising Action

                     a.     This builds from the conflict

                                              i.     Characters try to resolve the conflict

3.     Climax

                    a.     Desperation, futility, hopelessness, drives the protagonist to action

                    b.     Everything comes to a head, it’s do or die at this point.

4.     Resolution

                    a.     The fork in the road – which way to resolve?
                    b.     Self-reflection
                    c.     Change in thinking

                                              i.     Solutions to the originating conflict

Now you have a solid narrative outline. Next week I will discuss creating a Writers Handbook.

Sara O'Connor
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