Before the Draft: Outlining in Scrivener

I know I promised the last post in this series last week, but I spent much of the week at the hospital or at my parents’ house as my mom recovered from her hip replacement. She’s doing great, by the way (Hi, Mom!). In any case, I did meet my daily word count goals for drafting, but I just couldn’t get to the blog. So, here we go with the last post in my “Before the Draft” series. And it’s on…

…outlining. Which you already know from the title, but I feel like it deserves dramatic music because writers have such varied views on it. I can understand that. I didn’t outline at all for my first two books. One of those I barely claim, and the other probably would have benefited from some additional structure. Then, before I started writing DUET, I discovered Scrivener–cue choir of angels–and my brand of outlining was born.

I love a lot of things about Scrivener, but the corkboard is my favorite organizational tool. Once I’ve completed my research and figured out my characters, I use the corkboard to lay out my scenes. I start by making notecards for the scenes I’ve been jotting down in a Word document from the moment I first had the idea for the story. Then I go through my character profiles and add notecards for scene ideas that came up during that process. Finally I get strategic and figure out what other scenes I need to connect all of those. I give each scene a title and write a few sentences about what I expect to happen. I was going to post the corkboard I’m working from right now, but I’m not quite ready to talk about that project yet, so here’s the corkboard from DEXELON:

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 2.56.02 PMMy pre-draft corkboard isn’t a complete list of scenes, but it gives me direction when I start drafting. I don’t finish a scene and wonder, “What happens next?” This DEXELON corkboard is a pretty good example of how I use it. You’ll notice a couple of notecards don’t have descriptions. Those are scenes I added after I started drafting. And those of you who have read DEXELON might notice the descriptions don’t match up with what actually happens in the story. That’s because I solely use the corkboard as a pre-draft resource. I rarely update the notecards once I start drafting, so it’s kind of fun to look back afterward and see where I originally thought the story would go.

As you can see, I’m definitely not a pantser, but I’m not a super-detailed plotter, either. I like to know where I’m going, but I’m fine with diverging from that path if the story takes me in a different direction. In the half-dozen scenes I wrote last week, I already moved around a few notecards and inserted a new one. If I had to do all of that in a Word document, I’d go crazy!

How do you outline? Do you like to have every plot point laid out in advance or just let it come as it flows?

All Before the Draft posts:

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