Lesson 5

Create a chapter outline

Now’s the time to start putting all of your ideas and notes into a plot. It's the stage where you take your players — your characters, and let them move around the stage — the world.

The easiest way to go about this is to do it chronologically. I don’t mean this as the chronology within your novel, but the order in which you’re going to write the book. Here is where you take all those interesting character interactions and all the details of your world, and let them run with your story.

At this point, you might find your original idea changing. This is entirely natural. In fact, it’s encouraged. Changes at this stage might feel major, but this when you should be making the big changes and the major decisions. It’s how the plot grows and thickens, so to speak, and evolves into something altogether more powerful or richer. That way, when you come to writing, all you have to worry about is following your characters over the pages.

(“I love it when a plan comes together.” Image: NBC)

What I advise is writing a chapter-by-chapter bulleted breakdown of the actions and reactions that happen throughout your story. This approach will provide you with a full view of where the story leads and how it ends. It will allow you to chart every dip, rise, and fall of the pace, which we’ll talk about in the next installment. It also lets you drill down to individual scenes, swapping or strengthening them where needed.

This master plan and your notes will be your buddies throughout the writing process – evolving with you as you write, helping you to stay consistent, and providing you with the ability to see the whole plot in micro and macro detail.

As I mentioned, there’s just one more part to the planning stage, and that’s pacing. And that's what we'll cover in the next lesson.