To Outline or Not to Outline

An outline can be used for two different reasons: to create a boiled-down summary of your work-in-progress (WIP) and as a visual aid to track your story.

Some writers do not even begin their WIP until they have a basic outline completed for what they are going to write. I find this too confining and prefer to be spontaneous and let the story write itself. Plus, I like to see where the story and the characters are going to take me. However in saying that, I do like to create an outline after the second or third draft as it is a great way to organize your story.

Do a simple outline using each chapter as a heading and with bullet points, write down the major developments and revelations in each chapter as well as things like the date and the weather. Or you can create an outline like the one we learned in school. In that case it might look something like this:

I Chapter One

    A. Introduction of Characters ( I would write down only the new characters introduced in each subsequent chapter)

    1. Main character
    2. Supporting cast
      1. mother
      2. father
    B. Plot

    1. Hook
    2. Basic Groundwork
    C. Revelations

    1. MC finds out she was adopted
    2. MC finds out her real mother was 16
    D. Setting

    1. Date
      1. Present
      2. Flashback
      3. Religion
      4. Location
      5. Weather
    E. Theme

    1. Main Themes
      1. Abandonment
      2. Loyalty of adoptive parents

This can be a great visual aid rather than reading all through 100k of your WIP, you can consult this over a whiteboard or a few sheets of paper to see the plotting and the pacing and making sure you are not dumping too much info at once and that everything is in chronological order.

Whatever you decide: whether to use an outline or not, it is one more tool in your arsenal to make your manuscript the best it can be.

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