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.


  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!


  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!


  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!


  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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