My Thoughts On Outlining My First Novel

After a long internal battle, I admit to defeat.  This pant-sing thing isn’t working for me anymore.  (FYI, pant-sing means to write “organically” or to write “by the seat of your pants.”)

I have to outline my story.  I don’t fully understand my resistance to this idea, especially since I’m such a list maker.  I love making lists and checking things off.  An outline is basically a list.  This should be right up my alley.

I honestly thought that just writing a bunch of scenes as they appeared in my head and then lining them up into the semblance of a story would be my process.  No such luck.  I’m a little overwhelmed by all of the directions these characters are taking in my head.  So I need a way to organize them.


Here are the major milestones of story structure, as I remember them:

  • Inciting Incident (Hook)
  • Plot Point #1 (25% mark) – End of Act 1
  • Pinch Point #1 (37.5% mark)
  • Midpoint (50% mark)
  • Pinch Point #2 (62.5% mark)
  • Plot Point #2 (75% mark) – End of Act 2
  • Resolution (80-100%)

I’m going to walk through each of these milestones right now and see if I can write a sentence or two describing what could happen in my story.  For those of you who are new to this blog, I have a borderline nutjob female protagonist named Cassandra (Nick name Sondra, but Cassie to her best friend).  She is a “Sanctimommy” (a.k.a. someone who enjoys telling strangers how to parent their children.).  The male protagonist is Ryan.

INCITING INCIDENT/HOOK:  This milestone kicks off the story.  What’s an interesting way for the male protagonist to meet the female protagonist?  I think I’ll use the scene I already wrote for Day 3 of this challenge.  Ryan encounters Cassandra at the mall, where she pulls a “Sanctimommy” move on him and his best friend’s wife.  (QUESTION:  Is this enough of a hook for a reader?  I don’t know.  But I’m putting this scene in here for now.  I can always change it later.)

PLOT POINT #1:  This milestone is the “point of no return.”  The protagonist has to make a choice that puts him or her on the path of this story.  In this case, I’m going to try this.  Cassie discovers that the jerk she encountered at the mall and the coffee shop (Ryan) is actually her professor and she MUST take his class to graduate on time.  She chooses to grit her teeth and see the semester through.  They can’t avoid each other.  Point of no return.

PINCH POINT #1:  This milestone introduces the antagonistic force that interferes with the protagonist’s objective.  For me, this is a tricky milestone in a romance.  An unlikely romance is brewing between Cassandra and Ryan.  What can I use as an obstacle to keep them apart?  Maybe I should use Cassandra’s best friend in the first pinch point.  What if she is interested in Ryan?  Other potential forces keeping these two apart are Cassandra’s own personality issues and Ryan’s emotional unavailability.  I’m not sure if these are “technically correct,” but they sound like good reasons to keep the two main characters apart.

MIDPOINT:  This milestone reveals new information to the protagonists.  It changes how they approach the next events in the story.  I think Ryan catches a glimpse of Cassandra’s “softer” side.  She does a lot of volunteer work in her spare time.  One of the places is in the NICU of the local hospital.  When Ryan’s best friend’s wife, Mandy, goes into early labor, the baby has to stay in the NICU.  I think Cassandra will somehow help Mandy out and show her kinder side to Ryan.

PINCH POINT #2:  This milestone is another opportunity for an antagonistic force to present itself.  Cassandra and Ryan don’t despise each other at this point.  Their feelings for each other are softening.  This is the perfect time to throw another obstacle in their path.  But what?  Hmmmmm……  I think this would be a good time for Ryan’s best friend Jake to discuss leaving his wife Mandy.  And guess what?  Ryan always had a crush on Mandy, but Mandy chose Jake over Ryan in college.  Should Mandy reveal that she also had feelings for Ryan?  That would definitely pose a dilemma for Ryan……..  (QUESTION:  Does Cassandra also need an obstacle?  Is there another man interested in her?)

PLOT POINT #2:  This milestone is the final injection of new information into the story.  I have an idea for Ryan.  His mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s.  She is in a nursing home after suffering from a bout of pneumonia at the hospital.  I think Ryan will discover that Cassandra is a volunteer at the nursing home and has a special rapport with his mother.

RESOLUTION:  I know that Ryan and Cassandra will figure out that they should be together, but other than that, I have nothing.  I’d like to throw in a few surprise plot twists.  I guess I will figure it out once I write the first 75% of this book!

Well, at least now I have an idea of what I want in my first draft.  Time to start writing this out and see what happens.  A big thank you to anyone who read this post and for your support.  It meant a great deal to me.

5 thoughts on “My Thoughts On Outlining My First Novel

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