by - March 24, 2018

When I get an idea for a story (a plot bunny, you might say) it is very vague.  So vague that I don’t know if there’s any way for it to become an actual novel.  It’s usually an image that appears in my mind.  Three people standing in front of three different houses, perhaps.  Don’t ask me where theses images come from, it’s part of my internal coding that I do not understand. 

For quite a while I would be frustrated because no plotting/outlining methods worked for me.  I tried the index card method, the snowflake method and so on, but nothing worked.  I always ended up feeling as if the story didn’t matter.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED.  I outlined an entire novel and it actually worked.  Want to know how?  Read on!

Step 1 | The Pinterest Board

I deeply enjoy Pinterest.  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t.  Since I spend such a copious amount of time on it, why not turn it into a useful writing tool.

When I first had the idea for this novel I’m working on now it was just a few images, as usual.  So, I decided to create a Pinterest board with images relating to the ones in my head.  After a little while ideas of the plot variety started to pop into my head. 
What if she’s dyslectic?  What if she lives in China?  What if…?

Those are purely examples, but you get the point.  I rolled with the ideas and began looking for images relating the them.  After a while I had loads of ideas floating around and needing to be written down… Which leads us to step 2.

Step 2 | Write Everything Down

Writing down my ideas didn’t take long in the beginning.  I had a notebook by my bed and would write down any random ideas that I liked.  Some of them didn’t relate to the original idea of the story whatsoever, but they were still ideas.  One thing I realized about myself is that I thought when I wrote something down I couldn’t change my mind about it later.  I thought it was set in stone, but it’s not true!!!

Just because you write something down it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind about it, it’s there so you can evaluate its importance later on. 

After I realized this I felt a tremendous freedom I didn’t even know I was lacking.  I began to write down any and every idea I thought of.  Some were better than others, some completely contradicted each other, but I left them there in case I needed them.  And that was when I started looking into characters.

Step 3 | Characters Before Plot?

Yes.  All the way.  If I don’t care about a character or feel emotionally attached to them, I’m going to put that book right down.  I yearn for a story to makes my heart sing and cry.  I seriously don’t consider a book very good if it doesn’t make me cry.  I’m an emotional person about stories, okay?

I can’t tell you if everyone is this way, but I can assure you the characters are the most important part of your book.

To start off I needed to know the main character.  I began with a character board on Pinterest and searched for anything that sounded right.  Slowly I learned more about her.  I’d see one image and think it didn’t fit her, but another one would.  It was as if I was slowly getting to know my character, almost like a real person.

I moved on to supporting characters after a while.  It was interesting to work on each one individually.  Before I even labeled them “villain,” “love interest,” etc. 

Step 4 | The Bullet List

This next bit is the worst.  It’s the sloppiest part of the whole story, but it has to be done.  I wrote a basic plot.  What I thought should happen and what should go where.  I had to remind myself every little while that what I was writing wasn’t set in stone.  It could change in any way I wanted it to.  Why?  Because I’m the writer.  I make the rules. 

After I had that initial “draft” written I honestly wanted to trash my story.  So, I left it alone for a little while.   I still thought about it frequently, but I just let the ideas float around my head for a while.

Step 5 | Look for Open Spaces

One day I had an idea.  I was looking through the pages where I wrote down all of the random ideas and – POP – a new idea showed up, and it was a doozy. 

At one point I had drawn a rough map of the area my characters live.  Don’t ask me why, having a map is simply essential to my writing process.  Without it I have no idea where the heck anyone is…  Literally. 

Anyway, I was looking at this map of mine and I noticed something.  There was a big open space of opportunity.  And suddenly I knew what my story needed.  More characters.  There were a few characters missing who I really needed to drive my plot forward.  Without them I was completely stuck. 

By giving myself a rest, I was able to look at the story differently and find a new way to fix the issues.
Step 6 | The ACTUAL outline

After adding in these characters, I spent more time creating character boards for them and then I considered the parental situation and did some changing with that as well.  Mostly mental changes.
Then came the real deal.

I took a bunch of lined paper and stuffed it inside my binder and then I started working on it.  I prefer to write on actual paper when it comes to the outline.  That way I can write little notes upside down or sideways and feel much more freedom than doing it all in a Word document.  At first I wrote the basics of each chapter.  Something like this…

Mandy is waiting for the school bell to ring.  She sits in class and the widows are open and the wind is blowing her hair.  She gets that feeling of someone watching her and she looks and a girl she doesn’t know is staring right at her.  She feels awkward and then the bell rings and she grabs her books, but she drops them.

Yes.  It’s really rough, but I know what I’m trying to say and the message I’m conveying.  Then I repeated it 50+ times.

Step 7 | Cleaning it up

When I wrote the outline (see step 6) I only wrote on one side of my lined paper.  The backs I left blank for notes, dialog ideas, etc.

Before looking for mistakes I went through the entire thing and read it.  It wasn’t very long.  Maybe 4K words, but much more than more former (failed) outline attempts.  After I went through it I found loop holes here and there and generally strengthened the story.  I even made a few larger changes to make it better. 

I expected this part to be very restricting.  In reality I felt far more freedom than I ever could have imagined.  Every word on those pages I had written, and I had the power to erase, scratch over or love them.  
Step 8 | Start Writing That Novel!

I’m done!  I have officially outlined an entire novel using the “Pinterest Method.”  And now it’s your turn to try it out too!

I’ll see you on the other side of Camp NaNo.  You have got this, friend.  Whether you are a plotter pantser or someone who has no idea why they are even here, I wish you the best.  Be sure to get sleep, work hard and go outside every now and then.

Talk to Me
ARE YOU DOING CAMP NANO?  Are you a plotter or a pantser?  What is your biggest challenge with writing?  How do you plot your novels?  If you give me the link to your Camp profile I will gladly go stalk your novel.  I think this may be the longest post I’ve ever written.  Do you enjoy longer or shorter posts?  

~ Ella Marie

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  1. Camp NaNo is so close. 😳 And I haven't even started outlining my novel. XD Your outlining process is really cool, and different from other methods I've read other bloggers use. I like how you let your inspiration flow from Pinterest. My process varies from project to project, but I often write a long synopsis of how everything would flow, and as I write it, I insert questions for myself and make notes. I also like to do bullet lists of events, too. Most of the time I just work from a basic 3-act structure and play with it as I write. :)
    This was a great post! I found it very informative, and I actually prefer the longer posts. :)


    1. I know! Eep! Yeah, I can't even count how many posts I've read on outlining. Interesting. Your method sounds very effective. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, Nicole! Thank you for reading and for your super sweet comment! <3

  2. ELLA!!! I loved this post!!! And I’m so glad you found an outlining method that works for you! Pinterest boards are LIFESAVERS when it comes to writing.
    I totally agree, I have to be emotionally attached to a character. (I cry in books and movies a LOT). They are definitely the most important part of the story. Plot without good character is not a good novel.
    I seriously cannot wait for Camp!! I’m so excited that you’re participating, Ella. I hope you do a great job on your novel and have tons of fun with it!
    ~ riley aline

    1. THANK YOU SO MUCH, DEAR! Yes, it's wonderful to have an official "method." AREN'T THEY? Pinterest is my soul mate. Haha, glad to hear I'm not the only one! Me either! It was so nice of you to get me into your cabin.

  3. YAAAAS. THIS POST IS EVERYTHING. <3 I love Pinterest too!! SOME OF MY BEST IDEAS DEVELOP ON PINTEREST. Visualization is definitely my thing. ;) I love this method of outlining! I'm totally going to have to try it sometime. AND I JUST MADE A MAP FOR MY NOVEL TOO! I even drew the route my characters travel on haha xD IT'S SUPER HELPFUL.

    I hope you have a great Camp Nano! I can't wait to hear more about your novel! ^.^

    rock on,

    1. THANK YOU ABBIE!!! *sends fairy dust* Ooh, you totally should! If you do you'll have to tell me how it worked out for you. What? That's the greatest! *high-fives* You too, girl!

  4. This is such a great post! *bookmarks it for later* I'll have to refer to it when I'm outlining! =) I'm not doing Camp Nano this year (life is CRAZY right now for me). I hope you have a great Camp Nano though! Also, I'm a plantster (which is totally a thing, right? xD).

    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

    1. Thank you SO much, Micaiah! YES! If you do it you'll have to tell me all about it. Aww, too bad. Maybe next time? Haha, it's definitely a thing. ;)

  5. This was a great post! But I just have to say, my brain read the title as "How To Outlive Your Novel Using The Pinterest Method" and I got really confused for a second XD


    1. LOL, this comment literally did make me laugh out loud. If only all authors could outlive their novels. Then I'd be able to meet C.S. Louis!

  6. Great tips! I am doing Camp NaNo!!!!! I still have some work to do on outlining my novel.... XD

  7. SO interesting, Ellla! I love seeing everyone's writing process.

    I adore using Pinterest for my stories. I don't actually use them for plotting, but I like to collect images that I feel represent the "mood" and "style" of the story - as well as character references. I absolutely agree with you - plotting on paper is THE BEST.

    As for plotting, I haven't found a fool-proof method that works for me yet. I'd say I used to be a pantser, because I used to write random scenes down and hope it all worked together in the end. That's actually how I started my first story and it left me with a lot of inconsistencies that I now have to clean up. I think once I find a method that works, I'll be a plotter all the way.

    I did NaNo last year, but I didn't finish my story and I haven't had the time (or the drive) to pick it up again. But I really do want to finish it because I have been working on it for like…forever. I probably won't do any organized "NaNo writing" again, just on my own this time.

    best wishes for your Camp NaNo project!

    1. Yes, everyone does it in so many different ways. It's really interesting.

      Ah, that makes sense. PAPER PLOTTING RULES. Aww, that's too bad. I hope you can find a way to do it soon! Thank you for your sweet comment! Good luck with all your writing endeavors!

  8. Oh, this is awesome! I've never heard of someone outlining off of Pinterest, but that's so cool! I'm happy that you found a method that works for you. Isn't it the best feeling ever?

    I hope your Camp NaNo experience is amazing! It's so much fun. I love it whenever it rolls around.

    1. Thanks, Sarah! Well, I'm pretty sure I'm the creator of it, but I hope more people do it someday! Yes! It really is. Thanks! You too!

  9. Write it down. YES. I'm WILL forget that story idea that pops into my head, no doubt about it. (I'm looking into head trauma/memory problems, partly for writing reasons, but also just curious...)

    I sort of use Pinterest, though I tend to do it AFTER I get my story plotted out. I'll get my synopsis and characters settled a bit, then I'll get pictures. Occasionally the pictures spark an extra scene or two, but usually they just get the characters and the storyworld settled upon in my head and then get me really excited to start writing!

    1. SAME. I still forget ideas all the time. It's so frustrating. Ooh, that does sound interesting. Oh, yeah? I used to do that more, until I started doing it this way. Totally. Nothing can get me stoked about a story faster than images.

  10. THANK GOODNESS I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE!!! I really needed this post, like you have no idea. I am currently trying to figure out what works best for me and it's... overwhelming. Whenever I get a story idea, I immediately go to Pinterest. Most of the time my ideas come from when scrolling through Pinterest! Anyway. It's a lifesaver and I don't think I would have been able to get started on any of my books without it.

    But you breaking this down has helped me so much. I think I might have to try something similar to this. I have been currently pansting a short story I am working on and it was alright for a little bit but now I've ran into a bump in the road and I don't know what or where to go next!

    "Just because you write something down it doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind about it, it’s there so you can evaluate its importance later on." <-- THIS. I think this is my biggest problem right now. Whenever I try to plot/outline something on paper, I feel like once I write it down, that's it. I can't change anything else. So hearing that gave me a whole new perspective on this.

    I guess you can say that I just plot everything in my head. It works but I don't know how effective it is? I can't seem to finish anything. I've only ever written first drafts so many everything will work out better once I edit it.

    *awkward chuckle* Sorry for the long comment... I totally just spewed all my thoughts at you. BUT THIS POST WAS SO HELPFUL. So thank you for that, Ella. <3

    xx Kenzie

    1. Also; I've found it easier for myself to plot things on a digital platform. I usually have a section in my google docs for notes and ideas. It helps ease the pressure of changing things. I've also been using Trello to keep track of other things and create character profiles so I can write notes on that. It definitely makes it easier and it's all right there.

      I just decided to do Camp NaNo today so wish me luck! XD

    2. Okay, when I just couldn't stop smiling reading this entire comment. You have officially made my week, Kenzie.

      YES, YES, YES! Pinterest gives me SO many good ideas. You don't even know. It's literally crazy how many plot bunnies are jumping around in my head.

      Pantsing is nice... Except when you get totally stuck and then everything is awful because you didn't outline ahead of time. Which used to happen to me all. the. darn. time. I hope you'll be able to get out of that rut real quick!

      OH YEAH, BRO. When I realized that it was literally like a light bulb turned on in my head. I am SO GLAD this helped you out.

      Don't worry about the long comment I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT. Ah, interesting! I'll have to check out Trello sometime. That's great! You have totally got this, girl!


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