Opinions vary quire a bit on the subject of outlining before writing. Some people prefer to create the world and then see where the characters take them. Some follow a very strict outline. I think I fall somewhere in between. My dear friend Lady Hawkeye discussed this matter in her post on Monday.
I prefer to outline because I’m not a linear writer. I can’t just start at the beginning and see where it takes me. I write different types of scenes based on my mood. So if I’m angry, I might write a fight scene or argument for example. Since I stopped forcing myself to write in a linear manner, it’s increased my output tenfold.
I like to plot out my main points so I have a guide for all of my jumping around–it helps me keep on track–and the best tools I’ve found for this are Scrivener and Scapple by Literature & Latte.
We’ll start with Scapple, because with the way I write, this step/software would come first for me. It’s basically just a simple way to diagram or create a sort of thought map/flow chart for your project. I used this to create a an overview of not just my book, but my series as a whole–just covering the main points I need to hit.
In Scrivener, you can break your book (or other project) into various sections/scenes aka “scrivenings”. You can also group these in folders (chapters, perhaps) and easily drag and drop to move things around. You can even set up multiple books in one Scrivener file if you’re writing a series. This is awesome because you can drop your research and reference images directly into Scrivener as well, so everything is neatly organized in one location!
You can easily customize colors and icons for various items/folders/scrivenings. You can create different statuses and labels to assign to items to easily track your progress. You can view everything in an outline format, on a virtual corkboard, or in the compile view. When all is said and done, you can compile the novel into whatever format you need.
If you’ve never used Scrivener, I highly recommend it. I will never write with another program again. For both softwares, I started with the free trial. The thing that makes these trials amazing, is that you get a full version of the software AND the trial goes by days of actual use, not a date range. You don’t have to pay anything up front, you only pay if you decide to register at the end of the trial. Also, if you’ve been using the trial and made some serious progress in your project, you’ve already downloaded the full software so when you purchase all you do do is register; this means, you don’t lose any of your work, you don’t have to move it or convert it in any way.