Outlining Your Novel: Hitting the Beats

So far, in the Outlining Your Novel series, we’ve explored character arcs, the three act structure, death, and the turning point in the middle. As I said when the series started, outlining is not about creating a chronological order of events. Outlining is about taking a large project and breaking it into small chunks.

Now that we can see the novel as a big picture (the character arc is maybe the biggest part of that), we can begin breaking it down. We do that by hitting important beats, or moments of change, for that main character of ours.

Here, it helps to think of your story as a linear timeline. At the 10% mark, the status quo is interrupted in some way. This is a small disturbance. At the 25% mark, your main character encounters the big problem that makes up the primary conflict of the story. At the 50% mark, we have the change in the main character that we brainstormed during the discussion on the turning point. At 75%, we have the dark moment of the soul–the point in which all seems lost for the main character. At the 90% mark, we have the ultimate climax, where good triumphs over evil, and for the remaining 10%, the loose ends are all tied up.

That’s it!

Well, okay, it’s not it. But you’ve done the hard part. All that’s left is to brainstorm chapters that fill in the spaces in-between the beats, remembering your three-act structure. I find Scrivener to be one of the best writing tools out there for breaking a story down into chapters before actually writing. I also highly recommend Googling and reading about the beats and plot points that should be included in the genre you’re writing. That’s not to say you have to include every single turning point. But it provides a great framework to start with.

So go on–get outlining!

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