Refining the Novel Writing Process – Outlining in Scrivener

by Jonathan 0 Comments
Refining the Novel Writing Process – Outlining in Scrivener


I’m about halfway through the first draft of my second novel and it’s been a pretty cool experience so far. It’s been fun not flying totally blind like I did on my first novel, more like 1/2 blind with some things in focus, like the gentleman above.

As with my first go round, the biggest challenge is to get this first draft down without worrying overly much on its myriad warts. For me, a big part of that is due to taking steps to lay the groundwork before actually pounding out words. I find that when I have direction, it’s much easier to focus on the story instead of being distracted by every little imperfection.

Last Time Around

In writing the first draft of my first novel I just wrote and figured I’d see what came out, let the story reveal itself so to speak. That didn’t work so well. I read about thirty pages of that draft and then shelved it. I probably should’ve burned it.

For draft number two, I outlined the first five chapters or so in great detail, got impatient and started in on the full draft.

Better, but still, well … *grimaces*

Finally, I wrote a 50 page summary/outline of the whole story for draft number three. That draft became the backbone for the novel I’m querying now (another four drafts later).

Okay, sounds exhausting, right? That’s what I thought, too. I figured there had to streamline this process at least a little bit.

Using Scrivener as a Planning Tool

I decided to roll with Scrivener to help with getting thoughts down in a linear fashion. I’d used it in previous drafts of my first novel, but not as a planning tool.

I went with a chapter by chapter timeline to get down the logic of events keeping in mind that things would likely change as I actually wrote. The main reason I did this was to understand how things would end. I feel like having a solid end point in mind makes it easier to know where I’m going, even if the end is more like a vague shape just at the edge of my vision in a torrential rain.

I provided a brief summary of what would happen in each chapter, doing my best to keep in mind two things:

  1. What were the stakes of this particular chapter, and;
  2. How did this fit into the larger story?


I did my best not to dig too deeply into any one chapter summary so I’d have room for characters and story to evolve through the writing itself. Basically, I created a framework. From there, I jotted notes (in the notes box, no less!) for things to possibly incorporate in any given chapter. I’ll revisit those after the first draft.

So far this process has provided structure and still allowed room to change things and enjoy the freedom of the first draft. It remains to be seen if I still feel the same once I wrap up this first draft, but, truth be told, the key is to actually wrap up the first draft in a timely manner. If I get that out of the process, I win!

Ultimately, I’ve gotta keep after the writing and the process with an eye on improving all the time and have faith things will in place.

Note: As much as I enjoyed using Scrivener, there are plenty of other tools to organize your writing, from note cards to Google Docs to geocaches spread throughout the city.


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>