You’ve all heard me talk quite a bit about novel outlining. Over the years I’ve used a few different methods to get the same result, but what I haven’t talked about is how I also like to outline my novel while I write. When I outline my novels I start by making a simple chapter-by-chapter outline of my novel of what I want to happen. As I write each chapter, I go into more detail, answering the who, what, where, when and why questions. This means that whenever I write, I have two Word documents open. One of my actual manuscript, and another of my chapter guide. Once I finish writing a chapter in the manuscript, I hop over to my chapter guide and input the information there.
Why Does it Work?
Keeping a chapter guide keeps you organized in your story. You know what happened when and if you forget something you’ve written, you don’t have to jump back into the manuscript, you can just jump back to the chapter in your chapter guide.
The answer to What is the most important (in my humble opinion). If I can’t get a good answer to What, then that means I’ll have some re-writing to do when draft 3 comes along.
Keep in mind that when you create your chapter guide, you’re the only person who will read it. Don’t worry about proper sentence structure. These are your notes. Use bullet points and write only about what’s important. This is not the place to write long sentences of description.
Side note: You don’t have to create your chapter guide as you go. Sometimes I like to use it after I’ve finished the first draft of my manuscript and I’m getting ready for draft 2. By going through each chapter and answering these questions, I not only see any holes in the plot, but I’m able to see what chapters drag on too much and maybe need a touch of excitement.
Do you think a Chapter Guide will help you craft a better novel? Let me know in the comments below!