Pre-NaNo Update: Progress through Outlining

Well, it’s just about mid-October, and my novel is coming along. I’m not writing at a break-neck pace, but I have written almost half of my pre-NaNo goal. I’m at 36,000 words and change, with 13,000+ to go before November.

I have also, thankfully, completed my overhaul of the original structure I had, developing a more detailed outline in the process. While I technically have a fair chunk of writing to do before November, I’m really more focused on finishing the current chapter. Once completed, I’ll be able to better outline the following three to four chapters, giving myself a great jumping-off point for NaNo.

Order through Outlining!

I’m now using a spreadsheet for my story outline, and it’s the most organized I’ve been to date. I break down each chapter according to point-of-view (POV) sections, including the page number, the day/time in the story, a description of the events, and a brief summary of how it pushes the story forward. Check it out:

outline screenshot


Most importantly, I summarize what occurs in each section, followed by a vital question: how do these occurrences move the story forward? You know me by now; I love narration. But I’ve made a concerted effort to drop the expository sections and demonstrate the story, like replacing several paragraphs’ worth of narration and history with a brief conversation demonstrating the same themes. Most of my chapters have multiple sections, so keeping each one separate but under the same chapter heading helps me visualize how my story arc is broken down. I can also see which POV characters are getting the most attention, and how consistent the section and chapter lengths are.

Asking this question forces me to think about each event, each conversation, each description of how the beer tastes, in terms of how it progresses the story arc and/or adds depth to the character and setting. It guides my critical thinking on what I’m trying to say and how I will get there.

I’m curious to know if other writers use a spreadsheet for an outline, rather than a numbered, bulleted document. How do you stay organized? Leave a comment, and if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo 2015, buddy up with me: dia820.

And remember: Progress through Order; Order through Outlining!

Steve D

4 thoughts on “Pre-NaNo Update: Progress through Outlining

    1. Thanks! What kind of outline do you use? I read on one of your recent posts that you’ve finished it and won’t touch it until NaNo… I may have to push myself to do the same.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.