Outlining Your Novel with Index Cards

 

Outlining Your Novel

Do you have an idea for a novel but aren’t sure where to start? Using index cards to outline your novel is a great first step. Not only will it help you establish your novel’s story, it can also motivate you to start writing and get those creative juices flowing.

When I get an idea for a novel, I spend many hours imagining it and jotting down ideas. But with the day to day distractions, everything comes in all in a jumble. My thoughts aren’t linear. One moment I might think about a hero’s conflict with an enemy and the next moment I am thinking about the hero’s love interest. And sometimes mundane thoughts creep in such as what I am going to cook for dinner tonight.

In order to organize my crazy thoughts, I write down my ideas on index cards. If I have a particular scene in mind that I want to get a good outline of, I also keep a notebook out and reference it on an index card. For example, let’s say I have a pretty good idea of how a particular scene with the hero and the antagonist is going to go – from setting to dialog to action. Obviously, a small index card is not really going to capture all the information I want to remember for that particular scene. So, I write it all out in my designated story notebook and number it for reference. Then I describe it briefly on an index card and reference the number in my notebook.

Once I have several index cards, I start organizing my novel to flow from beginning to end. I probably don’t have too much content yet, but index cards will tell me where there are gaps that need filled. I know many of my key scenes at this point and with index cards it will be easier to think about the smaller scenes which will lead to the bigger ones. I can then add more index cards to fill in those gaps.

If I decide later that I want a particular scene to be closer to the beginning of the novel rather than the middle, index cards will make it much easier to move around. If I decide I don’t like a particular scene, I can take the index card out without disrupting the story’s flow. Adding scenes is also easier with index cards.

Outlining your novel on index cards can also help you if your creative flow gets interrupted. If life gets in the way and you have to put your novel aside for a time, at least you will have everything you have gotten together so far organized in index cards and in your story notebook.

Outlining your novel doesn’t have to be a difficult chore. Index cards are a great way to organize your chaotic thoughts and to motivate you to finally start writing that novel you’ve always wanted to write. Give it a try. I couldn’t have written my fantasy novels without them.

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