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October is for outlining

Ah, what a beautiful weekend! I am absolutely loving this weather. I hope the snow holds out for a while longer.

It’s October, which means different things depending on who you ask. I’m sure you’d get answers like: Halloween, fall, pumpkin spice lattes, and in my case, NaNoWriMo.  Well, a more accurate answer would be outlining for NaNoWriMo. With November just around the corner, I need to get myself all prepared, which means buying colorful pens, stocking up on decaf coffee (caffeine makes me way too jittery and crazy), and getting my novel all outlined.


Some writers swear off outlining. They say that it stifles their creative process (we call these people ‘pantsers’. Get it? Because they write by the seat of their pants. Clever, eh?). Totally understandable, but I operate on a completely different frequency. You see, I have this terrible, debilitating fear of writing absolute trash, and when I write blindly, trash is exactly what shows up on my computer screen. (I would feel so much more writer-ly if I wrote long-hand…oh well.) If I write without knowing where I’m going and why, then my characters just walk in circles commenting on the pleasant weather. As interesting as that is, it definitely doesn’t make for a novel…not even a bad one. So, in order to prevent this, I use some different methods of outlining.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes! (

I’ve tried the snowflake method, but it doesn’t always work out for me. My mind craves hyper-organization,  but my lack of organization skills often makes this difficult. So I use methods such as the reverse outline, tentpole moments, character arcs, visual storyboarding, and index cards. Read all about these outlining techniques.

Once I know the end of my story, I start focusing on the big moments that are going to get me there. These are often highly dramatic scenes such as fights, action scenes, and that awkward (or totally awesome) first kiss. Once I’ve got those in place, I start filing in the tiny details. I often slack off on the setting and sensory details and then have to flesh those out during the first edit of the finished draft.

I’m also a very visual person, so having images of my characters, settings, and even the weather helps me to write them more realistically. I’ve established a friendship with some artists on Deviantart, which is an amazing site where people post their artwork, creations, and works of literature. I highly recommend you check it out. These friends have made character art and book covers for me in the past, and it feels great  having a working relationship.

At the end of the day, what it really takes to win NaNo is perseverance. Once I’ve got my outline I just have to make sure to sit down and put my fingers on the keys, even if I have to neglect family or friends to get myself there (sorry everyone!).  As it stands, I’ve got my tentpole moments and some visual storyboarding done, but I’ve still got a long way to go. And hey, the story will probably change a lot along the way, so some of those tentpoles may even get yanked down. Oh well! ‘Tis the life of a writer.

Have a great weekend, CSU. I’ll see you on Monday!


Natalie Juteau can be reached at

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