Why You Need An Outline For Your Christian Novel
I don’t know how to build a car. It looks simple enough on the outside. There’s a box with tires, a steering wheel, and seats. Everyone knows what a car looks like, but imagine trying to build one without designs! The best you could end up with is a soap box derby car that only goes down hill and it might end with injury.
That’s a terrifying prospect, but no more terrifying than it is to be a writer halfway into a book before realizing that it isn’t going anywhere and it hasn’t been anywhere. You don’t want your work to be wasted. You want to build an outline that guides you along the way.
There are writers out there who contend that outlining is a waste of time. They want to be creative. They want their work to flow naturally. Maybe it works for them. Maybe they’re kidding themselves. An outline is a simple way of guiding your creativity in a structured manner that keeps your story moving and your audience interested. You don’t want your Christian fiction broken into a thousand pieces when it rolls to the end of the hill.
Learn How To Outline Your Christian Novel In Minutes Today
We have all sat through lectures, seminars, and classes that have spent four hours explaining something that could have been taught in five or ten minutes. It makes me want to scream. I’m not going to pretend that you can learn all the intricacies that can go into outlining that quickly, but I can get you started without wasting your time, unlike so many of those overpriced gurus.
How Long Does It Really Take To Outline A Novel?
I know you’re itching to write your novel. Outlining can seem like a barrier that keep you from getting to the good stuff, the fun of creating a story, but it will actually save you time in the long run.
I can’t tell you how long it will take you to outline your novel. It depends on how detailed you want to be. It took me about three days of outlining for an hour or two a day to outline the novel I’m currently working on. Can you sacrifice five or ten hours to ensure your novel is worthy of the next hundred hours you might spend on writing, editing, marketing, and publishing your Christian fiction? I sure hope so.
Now let’s get started.
How To Outline A Christian Novel In 4 Easy Steps
I’m not kidding around here, folks. Check mark your way down these four easy to follow steps and you’ll be able to fill out a useful outline for your Christian novel within a few hours.
1) Create A File For Your Outline
I am sure that there are writers still doing their work with pen and paper, and others who have their trusty typewriter, but most of us are going to be typing away at our trusty computer. The first and easiest step you’re going to make is creating a file for your outline.
Many writers are quite comfortable using Word as their program of choice, or its free Mac counterpart OpenOffice, but I can’t begin to tell you what a lifesaver Scrivener has been for me. It is an absolute time saver when it comes to outlining and independently publishing, it is quite affordable even for a cheapskate like me, and I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way.
Whichever writing program you choose, all you need to for this step is create a new file and save it wherever you like on your computer. Simple, right? Great. What’s next?
2) Choose A Working Title
I can’t tell you how important it is to be flexible when it comes to a working title. Maybe you have something perfect in mind, and it quite possibly could stick, but as with all stories things can change along the way and you don’t want to be stuck with a title that doesn’t make any sense, sell any books, or relate to the actual story when you’ve completed your amazing work of Christian fiction.
Take this opportunity to come up with a working title. You may have one already. That’s great! Make your working title the name of your file and place it somewhere inside your file as well so that you can identify it for your outline. Now you’ve done two of the four steps, tell me that wasn’t easy!
3) Create A Story Board
Okay, I admit it, these next two steps are going to take you more time. But they aren’t going to be any more complicated! Whew!
Creating a story board is the single thing that has helped me the most when writing my most recent novels. The better I get at this step, the more confident I am in writing my Christian fiction. It’s like I’ve written the story before I’ve put down a single word into the manuscript. All I have to do is fill in the details! So let’s create a story board.
What does a story board need?
Scenes: And by scenes I mean chapters that plot out your story. You need to know how many words your novel is going to be (50,000? 100,000? Determine what works well for your genre and pick a number) and how many words you want each scene to be. I’ve experimented with this throughout my career and have found that anywhere from 2,000-4,000 words per scene is within my grasp. Find out what works for you and do the math to figure out how many scenes you need.
Direction: Your scenes need to take your audience along a journey. There are many ways of plotting them out, but you’re going to need to set up your story, build tension through conflict, and have it reach a climax. How they do this depends on your creativity in mapping out your scenes within your outline. I can’t write your story for you, but I can tell you that the more detailed you get in directing your scenes the easier it will be to write your Christian novel when the time comes.
4) Develop Your Characters
You didn’t think you were done, did you? I told you this would be simple, but I also said it would be four steps, and I advise you not to skip over this final step before you write the first words of your manuscript.
In fact, steps three and four are heavily intertwined and I often find myself going back and forth between them to make sure they’re both filled out to the best of my ability. I even go back to and fill in missing pieces while writing my Christian novels, so don’t think this process is unimportant or a waste of time. It’s vital to the process.
Step three involves taking your protagonist(s) through a series of scenes that plot out your story. But your story won’t mean anything if your audience doesn’t care about the characters. Step four is where you sketch out ideas about your characters so that they are developed before you being writing your manuscript.
What goes into a character sketch?
A character sketch is a lot more than a physical description of what your character looks like. Yes, you’ll want to say if they have black hair and green eyes, but that is only the beginning.
Scrivener has a wonderful character template that asks writers to think about their role in the story, background, and internal/external conflict, as well as personality and mannerisms.
This is your chance to think deeply about your characters and how they relate to your story. Create believable characters (even in a fantasy setting) in order to make your story hit home with your audience.
The more you know about your characters, the better you’ll understand how they fit into those scenes you’re working on as well. They all fit together to tell your story.
What Are You Going To Do With Your Outline?
I believe that Christian fiction authors have stories worth telling. And if they’re worth telling, they’re worth putting in the work to tell them.
That doesn’t mean it has to be complicated work, that’s why I created this simple guide to outlining your story, saving you time and grief in the process. It works well for me and I believe it will work well for you.
Your outline will be a great foundation to your story. Let me help you along the way. Subscribe now for more updates and tips to help you write your Christian fiction.