Outline Expansion is a good first step to a rough draft
Welcome to the final blog post in the Police Procedural Outlining series. If you’ve been following along since the beginning, you’re now sitting on a complete outline, albeit a rough outline for your own police procedural novel. That is no small feat, so I hope you’ve taken some time to appreciate what you’ve completed.
In this post, we’re going to quickly recap the series and then move right into the outline expansion.
First, the recap.
Outlining a Police Procedural is a 6 part blog series where writers follow a 4 part, 18 milestone detective fiction outline. The outline consists of a complete story structure with plot elements designed to get the creative juices flowing. By following the outline, writers can create their own police procedural novel outline with little effort.
To get the most from this blog series, it’s recommended you start at the beginning of the series, download the attachments and work your way through each post.
The expansion of your current work in progress consists of a character, setting, chapter, and scene creation and expansion. Or, none of these.
Let me explain.
There is no right or wrong way to expand your outline. If ideas are flooding out and you want to get writing, then, by all means, do so. Get as much of that story out as you can. After you’ve completed the initial rough draft, you can fine-tune the details like character and setting.
If you’re like me and need a more comprehensive outline before writing the first draft, there are several options to choose from. None are better than the other. Just different.
In this post, I’ll show a smooth and actionable process to expand your outline so you can start writing your first draft in a matter of hours, not days or weeks.
Expanding Beyond the Storyline
I usually start with the character and setting expansion. This expansion is in the form of detailed notes on all the main and side characters, and the significant settings in the storyline. I print these notes out and keep them close by when expanding the plot and writing the first draft.
Regarding where to cut the cord on character and setting expansion consider this. If a character or setting does not require to be named and/or require detailed description for your readership, there is no need to expand.
There is no arguing well-rounded characters are vital to the success of your story, but that doesn’t mean you have to create a backstory from childhood (unless your story requires it). Most of the time a basic understanding of your main characters necessary backstory and how it relates to the plot and current situation is enough to get you through the outline expansion and rough draft. You’ll likely flesh out your main characters during both exercises as your plot begins to take shape.
To help you create a basic character profile for your main characters, i.e., hero, villain, and side characters, Fiction Formula has created a Character Worksheet that helps you build your characters physical appearance, personality, goals, backstory, present day, and quite a few other elements every well-rounded character requires. The worksheet can be downloaded inside the vault.
The setting is often overlooked by beginners, and that’s unfortunate because they’re missing out on creating another dimension to their plots.
Settings are as crucial as the main characters. Settings provide the visual for your readership and if done correctly, can create suspense, intrigue, hope, hopelessness, and a host of other feelings.
To expand your setting for the outline expansion and rough draft, consider using the five senses inside each critical setting inside your novel. Incorporate the senses in your expansion and try to visualize your setting using only the words you’ve provided. Consider describing your setting and allowing another person to read the description. Ask them to explain the setting to you using the five senses. Take notes and determine if the described setting is what you want to portray to your readership.
After completing the character and setting expansion, it’s time to look at your outline as a whole.
The goal of outline expansion is to expand the outline into your first rough draft. Expanding from rough draft to include scene’s and chapter’s, and from there to manuscript revisions.
Because you’ve already included all the major parts of story structure, we can assume your plot is solid and will not require too much restructuring. Because of that, outlining methods like the Snowflake and Bookend method are off the table. You’re way more detailed than either of those options already. That’s the good news.
The bad news is you’re likely to have a ton of pages full of notes intertwined with story structure, and it may look like a complete disaster. Guess what? Most do at this point. It’s to be expected, so don’t fret.
You really have a couple of solid options to choose for expansion.
If you’re not a super detailed outliner, you can probably write your first draft from the notes you have. It’s not terribly difficult because you have your character and setting expansion notes to the side and the milestones intact already. I recommend starting from the beginning and just start writing.
If you require more detail before you knock out that first draft, then I recommend creating space in your storyline for each of the 18 milestones so you can build scenes for each section. A fundamental rule is to have 3-4 scenes per milestone. However, if you’re eager to maintain a specific length for your novel, I recommend downloading the super handy How to Determine Your Novels Length infographic located inside the vault. This infographic provides the calculations required to determine the length of your novel.
If you’re not familiar with scene creation, I highly recommend you purchase Elements of Fiction Writing – Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham. (This is an affiliate link and I will earn a small commission if you purchase the ebook).
Inside you’ll learn everything you need to know about scene’s and how to structure them within your outline.
After you’ve completed the outline expansion, you’re ready for your rough draft. In the absence of writing several pages about the first draft, allow me to leave you with this. The goal of the first draft is to get it done. That’s it. Nothing more. Sit down and start writing. Don’t edit, don’t take too much time, and for goodness sake don’t worry about how good it is. In the words of Ernest Hemingway, “the first draft of anything is shit.”