How to Know When You’re Done Outlining: A Simple Test
You’re done outlining when your anxiety about actually writing your story is your biggest motivation to keep outlining. That goes for world building, character sheets, online research, obsessively reading writing advice blogs, and all the rest of it. Remember: You can always come back to your outline later! Beginning your story doesn’t doom you to leaving outlining land forever.
As a personal aside, I’ve honestly ruined more stories by outlining too much than I have by setting aside my outline and starting to write too early. No matter how well you outline, writing is a big, messy, scary discovery process. You can try to avoid that by staying in the safe world of the outline (where everything works perfectly and goes according to plan) forever and ever… but in my experience that only leads to a state of mind where actually writing becomes increasingly scary and elusive.
Lastly, remember that you can’t know everything about your story or characters before you start. As seductive as that idea is, at a certain point you have to take the leap into the unknown and see what emerges.
Hope this helps!
The Literary Architect is a writing advice blog run by me, Bucket Siler. For more writing help, check out my Free Resource Library, peruse my Tumblr Post Guide, or get The Complete Guide to Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. xoxo