3 Tips for Weaving Together Your Story’s Pieces (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 6)

3 Tips for Weaving Together Your Story’s Pieces (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 6)


Figuring out how to outline a novel is not a linear process. Particularly in the early brainstorming stages, outlining is not a simple progression from Step A to Step B.

Your brain is going to be bouncing all over the place: Step A makes you realize something about Step Z, which makes you realize something about Steps D, M, and U. Only then can you return to thinking about Step B.

The novel itself, however, is linear. When you start writing Scene A in the first draft, you kinda need to follow it up with Scene B. Scene Z’s just gotta wait until you get there.

This is yet another reason I find the outlining process so creatively liberating. To write a controlled and optimized version of your narrative, you must be able to first step back and look at the big picture. You must see everything there is to see about your story and realize how each piece affects all the other pieces.

Your outline is the perfect place to accomplish this.

How to Outline Successfully: Learn to Execute the All-Important “Bob and Weave”

As we’ve talked about in previous articles in this series, stories begin as a random conglomeration of ideas.

  • From there, you must brainstorm your way to finding the story’s skeleton—the basic shape of its plot.
  • That, in turn, allows you to begin understanding the story’s heart—its theme and the character arcs that drive it.
  • That’s when your “bob and weave” act begins in earnest: when you start identifying and filling your story’s plot holes.
  • Then, finally, you dig down to discover the context of your characters’ backstory.

And now… you’re done with your General Sketches!

outlining novelHowever, the one thing we’ve yet to cover is perhaps the most important of all outlining skills: the bob-and-weave. This isn’t a properly defined “step” within the outline. Rather, it’s a technique you’ll need to use throughout every single one of the previous stages.

(And, yes, I realize we’re now a full week into National Novel Writing Month, and if you’re competing, you should hopefully be done figuring out how to outline your novel and have written a good 11,000 words toward your goal. But what can I say? This is what I get for not starting this series in September!)

Once you realize outlining is not linear, it frees you from the constraints of thinking of each of the above “steps” as if they lived in isolation. Although writers may often segregate various aspects of story (such as plot, theme, and character arc) in order to better get our heads around them, we must always remember none of them functions alone. Plot depends on character, just as character depends on theme.

This, of course, means it’s impossible to figure out how to outline any one aspect in isolation. Instead, you have to “bob and weave” from one to the next. As you’re figuring out your story’s plot, many of the questions you’ll be raising will inevitably depend on answers of character and theme—and the same is true in reverse.

Read the full article on Helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

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