Should I Outline?

First and foremost, while writing my first novel, I tried almost every method suggested to me by every internet article and writer. Unsure about how to approach how to stay organized to character development, naturally, I sought out every piece of information and put it to use.

There were a lot of things I tried that flat out didn’t work (like scene cards or prize motivated work days). And now, while I’m still figuring things out as I go, there are some things that I know will and will not work for me.

Should you outline? In my opinion, yes.

Especially when you’re just beginning.

For my first novel I did not outline, and I severely regret it. For 40,000 words, I ambled on with no purpose until I wrote myself into a corner and had to go back and scrap 20,000 words of that. My characters were off in la la land flitting from scene to scene with no real desires or consequences.

My second novel, I decided to throw together an outline. See excerpt below. Now, it’s nothing extreme or detailed but it helps SO much! Most writers have a bunch of ideas but they’re never in coherent organization. Chances are you have this information already, just scattered around in your notebooks, computer or white board.

OutliningExample

I would show you more of the outline, but I tend to not censor myself whilst writing–quite a few swear words end up in my rough drafts. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The outline shown took maybe a half hour and mostly saves time, which is super because your time should be spent writing! Isn’t that what we want to spend our time on anyway? Additionally, I like to write in bed or take my laptop to work with me so I can write over the lunch hour and having a quick and easy outline makes it so much easier to be portable.

HOWEVER, my outline is very very thin. My writing requires a lot of discovery writing as well. Obviously, there’s only one sentence scenes, so it’s up to me to fill in the blanks. The outline is strictly for guidance and allowing me to remember what comes next.

Some writers never outline. Some writers outline every detail of every scene in their novel. There’s no right way to write.

Now, say you’re reading this and I completely sold you on the idea of writing an outline. Alright, Amy. I’m sold. How do I do it?

First, I figured out my ending and figured out my beginning. Wrote those down and let that ruminate for a few days until I realized what I needed to make the book captivating and how to engineer those scenes to put the characters in the right spots. There was a good week of reading articles, listening to podcasts, and absorbing information to spark an idea.

Once you have that, or even a loose idea of that, grab your pen and paper and go at it. It won’t be right the first time so make sure you have white out (LOLOL). And even when you think it’s done, you’ll realize there’s something missing, which will prompt you to bring out the white out again.

I urge you to at least try writing an outline; even for the mere practice of doing something different. For The Isle I was dead set on being a discovery writer. I wanted to be the type of person that sat at a computer and ideas just flowed, but I wasn’t. Or I should say, I could have done it but it wasn’t the smartest use of my time.

Do you outline? What are your methods? Any tricks to share?

5 Comments »

  1. That’s the way I outline too! The bare bones of the story with a few key scenes but still enough space to make stuff up and discover the story as I write it 🙂 it’s liberating and allows for creativity without getting too off course!

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  2. I don’t use individual chapter outlines, although I have tried to. I find that the best thing to do in my own process is to outline situations on 3×5 index cards and try those situations out in different orders, thinking about how the characters would react to each different chain of events. I also might photograph some of the better orders as reference for use later on.

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    • That’s a pretty good technique too! I’ve tried index cards but I feel like I either put too much information on them or not enough, which screws it all up! I like the interchangeable-ness of them though like you said–to switch the scenes or characters. Scrivener has a digital index cards. Have you checked those out?

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      • No, I have not used Scrivener. I do most of my final writing through word-processing programs nowadays, but I still like using paper for my outlines and rough drafts, &c. It’s just part of my process. 🙂

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