I’ve begun the outline for the new alien invasion novel. People tackle the outline in different ways. Some people use note cards, while others use mind maps in which events branch off of each other like a tree. And there are some who skip the outline altogether, which isn’t a bright idea since you’ll end up fumbling around hoping for something to congeal. I like to list out a sequence of events from start to finish. The writing then becomes a simple matter of checking things off as I move along.
These outlines can be a mess though. I think the longest outline I’ve written was maybe ten pages. When you have an ensemble of characters, it’s easy to lose track of them. I’ll wonder about a particular character and how long ago in the plot it’s been since I’ve touched base with him, and then I have to waste time search for him before moving on.
To fix this, I’ve decided to highlight the outline with each character matched to a specific color. You can do this with a real highlighter, or, if you’re like me and do pretty much everything on your computer, your word processor should have a highlight function. It’s a real time-saving tip. If someone’s marked as red or yellow or puke, I just scroll up until I find that color, read over what I had them do in their last section of plot, and then continue on with it. I’ll usually try to have it connect in some way with the latest plot point I’ve written for another character.
If you’re a visual learner – if moving around note cards or scribbling through character webs isn’t helping – then give this a try.