This week, I’ve been working on making an outline for revising my novel. This is to help me stay organized and focused on the most important scenes as I write my next draft.
Here’s how I decided what scenes were important:
As I mentioned in my previous post on writing, I’ve made an index card for each chapter of my novel.
- I spread out my index cards so I could see all of them. Skimming them, I determined:
- The inciting incident—what happens in the main character’s life that sets the novel in motion
- Doorway #1—the first point of no return where the main character decides to take the action step to counteract whatever disturbance happened in the inciting incident
- Doorway #2—the second point of no return where the main character takes a step from the middle of the novel to the end where they will face the opposition in a final battle
- From here, I skimmed my cards several more times and removed any that didn’t move the plot forward in some way and did not include some sort of action or suspense. With what was left I determined:
- The opening
- The inciting incident
- A complication that led to Doorway #1
- Doorway #1
- Several more complications
- The climax/the complication that led to Doorway #2
- The end
- I ended with 13 main scenes and labeled them accordingly.
- Finally, I spread out the cards again, then separated them into 4 piles:
- Most important scenes—the ones I determined in the second bullet point on this list
- Other important scenes—those that moved the plot forward, deepened characterization, and transitioned between important scenes
- Scenes to break up—those that had information that would benefit the novel but were too boring to leave as their own scene
- Scenes to cut—scenes that, although interesting, did not move the plot forward (unfortunately, I had quite a few)
My main advice for anyone who wants to take this approach is to be ready to cut scenes. It can be difficult, but if they aren’t moving the plot forward in some way, they shouldn’t be there. There may be some important information in these scenes that can be pulled out and added in elsewhere if there isn’t enough to justify having the whole scene or chapter included.
No matter what, keep going! This is just the start of a long process, now is not the time to give up!
- For the first bullet point: Bell, James Scott. Plot & Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2004.
- For the second bullet point: James V. Smith, Jr. The Writer’s Little Helper. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2006.