A Guide To Outlining: Part One: Why Outline? + More

In the author writing community, there is a lot of talk about plotting, outlining, etc. What there is not much talk about is the actual outlining part. I used to be a discovery writer (who writes without plotting) and I desperately wanted to learn how to outline.

There are many different outlining methods, but today, we will be talking about the basics of outlining. What is it, and why should you do it? What purpose does it serve?

Why Outline? 

Many people are discovery writers, meaning that they write with ideas in their head, rather than ideas written down. These people usually have a more vague idea of where their story is going. This is not a bad thing, but there are disadvantages that come with it.  

Outlining will help eliminate writer's block. If you constantly find yourself stuck, not knowing where your book is heading, outlining may be for you.

Another reason to outline is that you will have a good sense of story structure, flow, and pacing. We will get into how to apply that to your outline in a future post in this series, but generally, outlining saves you a lot of revision time in the future. 

One more reason before we jump in. You can explore ideas in outlining, so that you won't have to explore them after drafting. In other words, you won't have to do multiple drafts and rewrites of your story, because you can explore these in your outline. 

What is an Outline? 

Outlines are the bones of your project. You construct the bones, so that you can make the more complex body later. The outline can be as small as 2 pages or as big as 50. It all depends on your method, and how you think about it. In this series I will talk about my outlining process, popular processes, and more. 

Usually, outlines have a common structure. Some use the Save the Cat beat sheet, (or some type of beat sheet) to outline. We will talk about Save the Cat Writes a Novel in an upcoming post. Others outline scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Personally, I use a mixture of both, and you also have to find out what works for you. 


If you have any questions on the basics of outlines, make sure to write them in the comments, before I post the next part. I will add a small Q+A part in the next post answering your questions. If you post your question after I finish the next post, I will answer directly in the comments. Make sure to look at next week's post, which covers popular outline structures and more! 


Comments

  1. This article not only taught me a lot about the principles of storytelling, but also made me think about the importance of “outlining” in my life. After all, life itself is a story. A real one. You nicely mentioned that “outlining saves you a lot of revision time in the future”. For me, this is a fantastic and extremely valuable sentence. Regarding the story of my own life, I should not be just a discovery writer. I should also pay attention to the outline of my story. Your article is interesting because it is a guide not just for storytelling but also for living. I look forward to reading the second part of the article. Stay safe and keep writing inspirational articles.

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    1. That is such an interesting thing to have your mind wander to after reading this article. It's a great point you brought, and I definitely use outlining in my life, too! I love writing down or think about what I will be doing that day in the mornings. Having a plan never backfires.

      -An Excessive Planner!

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  2. I have a question about outlining. Many stories have a nonlinear narrative, with a lot of flashbacks and fast back-and-forth movements in time. When you write your outline, do you write the events in a chronological order or in the non-linear format that you intend to tell the story? I think perhaps one way to do this is to write events in the non-linear format that you have in mind, but ordering them chronologically on a piece of paper with numbers that indicate their order in your non-linear narrative.

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    1. Here's the blog post I answered your question on: https://www.leilabricket.com/2020/08/a-guide-to-outlining-outlining.html I hope this helps!

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  3. I have a question. Can I still outline with two protagonists? The novel im currently working on switches from one perspective to another each chapter. But this article helped a lot.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I answered your question on this blog post: https://www.leilabricket.com/2020/08/a-guide-to-outlining-outlining.html
      I hope it helps!

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