I've always thought that preparing a novel and drafting an outline was the easiest part of the entire process, but I'm quickly realizing that's not the case. In order to write an intricate story that I'm proud of I know that I need a pre-planned structure, however, I just can't seem to get the ideas out of my head going past Act 1. It's like the characters have only told me their stories for that period of time and I'm waiting for them to get back to me with the rest. And the last thing I want to do is force out a plot that's pointless and that I just end up tossing out.
Ideally I would have the entirety of my outline complete and ready to go by May 1st, but I don't think that's going to be an option if it's this hard to just come up with simple plot points. Because my novel will focus on emotional experiences the characters have, there isn't going to be as much anxiety-inducing action or fight scenes to drive the plot forward. It's a story rooted in real life and the human experience, so I need to come up with a plot that is realistic but still entertaining in it's mundanity.
I like to think that I can wing most of my best work, but realistically, I am much more creative and productive when I know the direction I'm heading in and can devote certain periods of time to getting a specific task done. So, I know that once my outline is complete and polished then I'll be ready to dive into actually writing the first draft of my novel and creating all the characters and plot points that will drive the story forward.
Right now I am trying to work within 3 acts and create the story around a strong beginning, middle, and end. Once I've figured out the major plot points for each of those I can start breaking each act down into chapters (what happens in each chapter or what we learn about the characters in each chapter). And then once I know how many chapters there will be and what will happen in each one I can then break it down by scenes. I could go in farther and break them down by paragraphs, but I feel like that's where you can lose a lot of your creative flavour and style, so I'd rather let my mind form the paragraphs as I'm writing the first draft.
This is a Youtube video I found recently about the outlining process and it's helped me a bunch in understanding the importance of a plan and how to make the outline as tight as possible before I actually start writing.
If you're preparing to write a novel, what has been your method for the outlining process?