Novel Planning with Phase Outline & Scrivener

Two weeks until Camp NaNo, and I seem to have committed myself to writing a new novel. Only very detailed planning is going to get me through this, because I don’t want to devote the full month of June to this one project. I always plan and write exclusively in Scrivener, so nothing new there. And I used Lazette Gifford’s phase outline method for last November’s NaNo novel, so I have some experience there. And yes, it did help, even though (as usual) I didn’t stick to the plan very closely.

What’s different with planning this novel, is that I’m using Scrivener in a new way (new for me). Normally, whatever kind of sketchy outline or plan I use is written either in one long file or a series of files. Even using the phase outline method for the first time last year, the material wasn’t organized in a way to make the whole thing easily searchable. This year is going to be different. I figure even if I don’t get the whole thing done before June 1, or even write the whole thing, the book will be that much further along and I’ll have learned a whole lot more about what it takes to plan and write a book in a reasonable amount of time — without unnecessary frustration.

Here’s what it looks like so far:

Clicking on it will give you a closer look.

There’s a folder for each chapter, a first for me. Within each folder are the scenes for that chapter. The phase outline part is the brief but detailed description of what will appear in each scene. Each scene starts with a quote that I may or may not include, but it serves as a kind of tag to give me an overall sense of the scene.

The scene that the program is open to isn’t fully developed yet, so a good bit of it is just notes to be fleshed out.

The beauty of doing the planning this way is that it’s so flexible. Everything’s drag and drop, so scenes can be modified, combined, moved to existing chapters or provide the basis for new chapters. It leaves room for surprises and the story can develop organically, which is the only way I can write.

Of course, Scrivener isn’t the only program that allows you to work this way, but its other features make up a big part of what keeps the frustration level down when I’m writing.

If you’re interesting in learning more about the phase outline method, the link to NaNo for the New and Insane is in the left sidebar under Writer’s Tools. It’s free.



4 thoughts on “Novel Planning with Phase Outline & Scrivener

  1. Thanks for posting this. I fact, I’ve been looking to try Scrivener, but haven’t seen a stable PC version…until now. Just bought it and downloaded it. Looking forward to giving it a try.

    1. Great! Another convert. I’ve heard that the Windows version doesn’t have all the features of the Mac version, but the people who are using it love it. And I’m sure it will catch up eventually. I’ve been a fan for three years. Couldn’t do without it.

  2. Always interesting to see how other people write, Catana. I’m way back in the 18th century, I suspect. Although I use a computer, everything else is very 18th century. Everyone’s different. Rock on.

  3. Outlines are very individual to the writer and the book. Some books do well with a minimal outline that may be a line or two per chapter. Other books are more complicated and need the intertwining of subplots and intricate character development. The type of outline I’ve come to use is a combination of a scene outline and a phase outline. Bringing the two together has been working well to keep the first draft cohesive and give me a very good idea of any plot problems before writing the draft.

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