The outline you’ll complete using the 30-day method will become a snapshot of your novel. After finishing a full outline, you should feel you’ve got the makings of an entire book (your story should feel complete, solid, exciting and satisfying) and you should be desperate to start writing the book itself.
This first draft outline is the equivalent to the first draft of a manuscript. Because you’ve revised it so thoroughly, it will read with all the completeness and excitement of a finished novel. Using this outline to write the first draft of your book (which, in almost all cases, will be the final draft, needing only minor editing and polishing) should be so easy you might even feel a little guilty about it. All the hard work will already have been done creating the outline.
Throughout this guide we’ll work on the assumption that the first draft of your book isn’t a fully completed draft in the traditional sense, but is instead a comprehensive outline – your first, whole glimpse of the book and a snapshot of what it will be once finished. The outline you create over the next 30 days will become the foundation upon which your entire novel will come to rest. This method is a way to lay out the full course of the story as it flows from beginning to end.
Your commitment to the 30-day method
Despite its flexibility, the 30-day method requires a great deal of commitment from you as a writer. The first thing you need to become a productive writer is self-discipline. This method will give you that in spades – if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to it. Not everyone will be able to complete a first draft outline in exactly 30 days on their first try, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to do it. This method, like all methods, requires a sufficient amount of practice. The more you use it, the more time and effort you’ll eventually shave off your outlining schedule. In the future, you may even notice it takes you considerably less time to write the first full draft of your book.
Does it mean you’ve failed if it takes you 90 days instead of 30? Of course not. If you need more (or less) time to perform certain steps in the process, you can adjust your schedule easily. But this method will probably make you work harder than you’ve ever worked before.
Some will enjoy the challenge; others will use the method while setting their own deadlines for each step. And others still won’t be willing to allow their muse to be harnessed in this way. Find what works for you over the long term, not simply for the moment. Even if you find the next 30 days difficult, persevere – it will get easier with experience.
Understanding the 30-day method schedule
Keep in mind that each of the six stages identified in this method has its own day-to-day schedule. These individual schedules are discussed at length at the start of each corresponding chapter. Don’t worry if you need to allow yourself an extra day or two for some tasks. As you become more familiar with the method, you’ll find it easier to stay on schedule.
The first steps to creating a comprehensive outline are very rough — each building on the previous one. The preliminary outline you create in stage one won’t contain everything. You’ll just be getting your basics down at this point. With each step, you’ll be developing more details about every aspect of the book, and your outline will grow to reflect that.
As you’re writing the first full draft of your book, you’ll also be re-evaluating your outline periodically, as your story takes on a life of its own and moves in directions you might not have planned. You won’t stop evaluating the strength of your outline until the book is complete.
Creativity and outlines
Writers who haven’t tried an outlining system have many questions about the process. Is it possible for an outline to be flexible? Can it take into account my individuality as a writer? Can I continue to be creative using an outline? Can I use an outline for writing any fiction genre? Will using an outline reduce the number of rewrites I have to do? Will using an outline mean it will take me less time to complete a project from start to finish? Won’t setting goals clip my wings, rather than allow me to spread them?
Authors tend to be suspicious, at best, of outlines. Despite this, many are looking for a method that can give them direction – a method that embraces an individual’s way of working but takes away none of the joy of creating. They want something that will streamline the process and make them more productive, so they’re not surrounding themselves with half-finished projects and manuscripts in need of major revisions.
An outline can be flexible, can be so complete it actually qualifies as the first draft of the novel. It can make it possible for writers like you to achieve more with less work, reducing the number of drafts required for each project – even to the point of creating just one draft.
Instead of viewing an outline as an inflexible, unchangeable hindrance, think of it as a snapshot of a novel – one that captures everything the novel will eventually contain, but on a much smaller scale. This snapshot can be adjusted and rearranged until it’s smooth and strong. By revising a comprehensive outline of your novel, rather than the novel itself, you can revise 50 to 100 pages, instead of four times that.
Without robbing you of the joy of your craft, this guide will teach you how to become a systematic, self-disciplined, productive author – no matter your genre or level of experience. The 30-day method takes into account that you’re an individual and may have your own methods of getting from A to B, while helping you to clarify your vision of the story before you begin writing your first (and possibly final) full draft. No more wasted time or endless overhauls and revisions. The clearer your vision of the story before you start actually writing it, the more fleshed out your story will be once it makes it to paper.