The Writing Process · Writing Tips & Advice

Jelly and Outlining a Novel

I haven’t posted any more stories for a short while because I’ve been trying to outline material for a full length novel. Well, an 80-90,000 novel. That’s what I’ve learned is the standard, acceptable length for the average adult fiction. Dividing it into Three Acts, and subdividing those into chapters.

It was like trying to wrestle with jelly, in a vat of jelly, while people threw jelly at me. My material just wouldn’t fit the outline I found on a YouTube video… Which was probably because that outline was more suitable for writing thrillers. Or maybe not. But anyway, my material just wouldn’t fit it.

So I asked my wonderful friend Aven Ellis and she gave me a much simpler outline to try. And a lot of encouragement. And now I’m actually making progress… I can see less of the bones of the plan and more of the flesh of my story, which I think is good.  And I’m actually enjoying it, and wondering why I put off doing it for 30 years. But that’s another story.

The thing with an outline is, if I want to introduce a significant character or fact later on, I just add a mention of it earlier in the plan. Da-dah! I feel it makes me look clever when I’m not. Or maybe it doesn’t. Time will tell.

But I’ve been working on this outline for three days now. Three days! And my Inner Critic is calling me a loser. But then I think – I have never embarked on such a long piece of writing in my life. Not even close. (My degree dissertation was criticised as “thin”). To write 80-90k words will take months. And even more months to re-write it all, as advised by all the writing books, articles and videos (which I read/watch as a form of advanced procrastination). So, the outline should take… weeks, at least. Plus I comfort myself with the fact that the longer I take over the outline, and the more detailed I make it, the easier the writing will go. Which makes sense. Doesn’t it? I think so.

And I love feeling like God. Deciding characters’ fates. Those I like, those I don’t like… Their puny lives in my hands… mua ha ha. Yes, this writing lark is finally beginning to feel like fun.

More later and thank you for taking time from your busy day of work (or procrastination) to read this. Happy writing/procrastinating!


5 thoughts on “Jelly and Outlining a Novel

  1. “It was like trying to wrestle with jelly, in a vat of jelly, while people threw jelly at me.” I love that image, you are so funny! And working on your novel outline for three days makes you a WINNER in my book!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My hat is off to you. It takes discipline and determination to write an outline. Me? I’m a pantser, not a planner. I get pushed around by my characters all the time and I constantly worry that they’re leading me astray. My worst nightmare is that I’ll have to unravel 10,000 words to make a story viable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My hat is off to *you*, though! I tried pantsing first and wrote myself into a corner and got stuck. Stephen King doesn’t outline, and I tend to think the more experienced you are the less you need to outline. This is my first novel, so I’m *hoping* the second (if I get there) won’t need quite as much detailed planning.


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