Monday, September 8, 2014

Novel Writing: The Research and Outlining Tips

Tips on Organizing

Recently I pulled out my research for last year's NaNoWriMo and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to pick back up, and I figured I would share a few tips and tricks I use when organizing and outlining my novel. 

Under my belt I have three feature length novels, but nothing ready to publish. My husband asked me why I would want to do NaNoWriMo when I have to my name three finished works, but when I explained to him that I wasn't willing to let my 'baby' go into the wild without having at least something else out there first. 

I don't want the harsh criticism that will come with my finished work on something I have put years into. Why not do a quick little romance to have first? Perhaps it's wrong, but that is what is my train of thought. 

NaNoWriMo rolled around in 2013, and I was excited to start! I spent soccer practices working as well nearly all lunch hours. However, we also made an offer on a house that took nearly 6 months to close so my heart and soul quickly tucked away into that--and I packed it all away for next year. 

First, your story. Now, you have to have an idea as to what you want to write; or else turn away now. This isn't an entry on brainstorming, but it's how I organize my thoughts for each project. 


One of the best purchases I have made is a printer that will only print in black and white. In this I could print any internet research I found and tuck it away neatly in folders all pristine and highlighted in areas I liked the most, but one of the downfalls in researching on the net is sometimes people make it up…imagine that, not everything you read on the internet is true! So I purchased a few books that went along with my novel. 

Your local library has a lot of books, what??? Yes. So if you are like me and don't want to spend a great deal of money on the books, check them out. I did this so I knew what book to actually buy. I like to have the books close at hand at all time, especially when the internet isn't at my hands. I carried them around with me everywhere and always kept my post-its on hand to make sure I could mark my pages.

Now, once I found 'the one book to rule them all' I went through and organized it with flags and chapter notes.

In each section I would outline what the chapter was about for fast reference, and then mark parts I found interesting or with possible ideas.

This way I could get to it all fast if I had a question I needed answered or wanted the facts. Now, what I recently learned is that I have to be careful with historical items because as a history buff I wanted to keep true to a single year. 


I like to have a single notebook for each project, not multiple ones. I keep one notebook and call it my 'script' because from here I outline scenes and paste in bits of things I print. Castle outlines, character images, lyrics I liked, songs that inspired me, and just about everything else you could ever imagine. 

Here I printed a labeled picture of a violin because let's face it, I've never played one in my life and when I'm writing a character who has played since a child--I'm not going to write, "And he held the neck thing like a boss, and walked his fingers down the part where it connects to the bottom, bitch. And all the ladies loved him."

Sometimes, I keep a second notebook on hand for when I'm brainstorming, but when I'm finished all the ideas that I like go into that main notebook. It's my visual companion as well my sidekick.

I found that keeping it all in one notebook is best because it helps keep everything in one place, and later when I'm ready to start writing I'll have my script handy. I dedicate a page to everything, one for the character, one for the chapters, one for the 'plot bunnies', and so on. However, the one that I use the most is the 'scenes'. 


I'm pretty scatterbrained and it's hard to imagine that I am able to even write at all, but one thing that I have learned that no matter what order you write a scene in--just write it. Now this next part is a little complex, but I have found that it really helps, especially if you are ADHD like me. 

Post it notes, post it notes, post it notes.

You can never ever have too many post-it notes, and I will go through a stack at least every session. Before when I didn't have a house and didn't have my own office, I used a folder for my outline. On each note I would write a scene so that way when I was ready to write it I would pull the little thing out and paste it on my computer to remind me what I am doing. 

I write in Scrivener which has this same sort of thing, but for those of you that don't have that program or are like me and like to freehand scenes as well--this really helped keep me organized. 

I also had a page in my script where I put 'Random Scenes'; things that I really liked and wanted to add but they didn't have a place just yet in my story. I could move scenes around like this, and pretty much could story-board the whole thing. 

I use flags to mark scenes like fights and sex that way I could make sure they go in the write moment and are not over used. So each little green flag would be for a fight and the pink would be for sex. I don't want to ever over do it, and certainly am not writing smut. However, each book should be well rounded in both, and this way I could have a visual of how many times shit gets real. 

I have a free wall in my office which I know a few people who use this as their storyboard, but this way when I'm done with the storyboard I can fold it away and tuck it down in my bag. My daughter is almost 10 and though she's still pretty blind to what is going on in the world as far as romance goes, I'm pretty sure she's not ready to see this. Also, keeping it on the inside of a folder makes it easy to tote around. 

I keep all of this research in the same place, and in a bag that is devoted to my novel. Thirty-One Gifts made the best bag for this (in my opinion) called the All in One Utility Tote, and that way I can just up and go with it when the time comes to travel and write. 

I hope this helps, it sure has me!

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