Outlining, personally, is my best friend. I outline everything, from my story to this very blog post. In this series about structure, I am going to have a subseries of outlining tips and walkthroughs as outlining is basically structuring your novel via dot points. This subseries is going to be basically showing you how to organise your notes about character and conflict and why outlining is going to be a lifesaver if you are a writer like me.
Should I Outline?
Generally, writers fall into two categories: Pantser and Outliner. An outliner plans their writing with little or a lot of detail and a Pantser they either don’t plan or plan very little. These two methodologies are compared, fought over and passionately debated on. Put simply, I am an Outliner and don’t understand why people would like to be a pantser, but I would like to say that both categories are right. Writing does not have a set amount of rules that everyone has to follow, and I would recommend you do some self-discovering and figure which system works for you. If you are a pantser, congratulations! I wish you well, and I wish I could be you!!! Off you go and write the book of your dreams.
Benefits of Outlining
Okay, so you have decided that you are an outliner, that you need to plan out details of your novel. Outlining is great! It really is! Here are some benefits of Outlining:
Have you ever started writing something and ran into a dead end? I did that with my first WIP, and it felt horrible because I, at that point in time, really loved my story, but now I can’t really pick it up again. So outlining prevents dead ends because you don’t ever need to rewrite a heap of chapters but adjust a few plot points.
A way to make your book complex and have symbolism is to foreshadow certain plot points. Outlining gives you that chance to have that complexity that otherwise might have the chance to be.
Pacing is Smoother
Pacing is important as you want to adjust it to make sure it flows smoothly. If you don’t know that your protagonist was going to die you wouldn’t adjust the pacing accordingly.
The Misconceptions of Outlining
Outlining sometimes get a bad rep and if you look at these surface-level criticisms of Outlining you would think that too. I did for a long time:
Outlining Limits Creativity
There is an idea that once you outline your novel, you cannot deviate from that path. Fears that you have boxed yourself is a writer greatest fear, but this is simply false. Outlining is about putting your ideas into a system that is organised and is changeable if it ends up not working. My outlines often become hugely different as I found better ways or plotlines that would suit my conflict or characters better. Don’t be ashamed to move away from your first plan.
Outlines Need to Be Formal
Now, this is definitely wrong. Personally, formal formatting is the worst. I often have pretty sticky notes that have certain plot points writing on them. In my next post about outlining and structure, I will be talking about different types of ways to outline, but you definitely don’t need to list plot points and character moments like a shopping list.
I hope this was helpful!