Why Outline? Post#1

I was recently invited to lead a webinar for LearnSurge on the topic of outlining. The webinar was a success. Afterward, I had a ton of great audience participation and some library requests for the material. It occurred to me this was exactly the kind of thing I like to blog about. I couldn’t figure out how to get the dumb bunny powerpoint to play on the site, so I’m breaking it down into chunks for anyone interested in outlining a novel.

I’m a passionate fan of outlining. I was once a pantser, but no more. I’m sure plenty of you will leave me comments about why your way is better. Cool. Right on. But, for the sake of acknowledging there’s more than one way to tackle a novel, I’m going to write a few posts on how I use outlines to write and why. This is Post One on outlining.


Making time to write is tough, but manageable on most days. You can see my #1 distraction in the background on this picture. Social Media – specifically twitter. I love that there’s always someone out there.

Get all your tools in one place: IE your ideas, get your head around what you need so you can get busy.

We spent a year remodeling our basement and by the time we finished every tool we owned had been transported from the garage to the back room downstairs. There’s nothing worse than your husband hoisting a newly constructed 2×4 frame and asking for the nailgun but it’s not even in the same room.

A few days of outlining – A famous author recently said to me “Why waste all those words when you could be writing?” Well, that goes to show how personal the process is. For him, outlining seemed burdensome, but that’s not how my brain works and no offense to the retired full time writer but I don’t have time to “wing it.”

For me, a couple days of plot prep saves months of lost time staring at the screen between flashes of inspiration or thousands of lost words when I realize something I wrote into the story isn’t working out. There’s nothing worse than highlighting a few thousand words and hitting DELETE.

Use your time wisely—

So, What IS an Outline?

•Outlines are blueprints
•Move the story from convoluted new idea to finished product
•As detailed as you want:
–Bones: basic structure guideline
–Major plot points
–Other key components
–Random details or dialog
Okay, but how will that help you write 80,000 words?
•Provides a guideline
•Sets daily goals
•Saves time
–You know what to write next & where you stopped last
•Eliminate plot holes & underdeveloped plot arcs
•Creates a quick visual overview
•Keeps you writing
Outlining provides a guideline so you can set daily goals. Outlines help you keep track of where you are. I keep my outline open as I write and highlight the bullet points as I get them into the manuscript – which is a confidence boost because I see my progress hour-to-hour or sooner. Knowing where you stopped writing last time is a huge time saver. I used to sit down and reread the previous few pages to get back into the story and wrap my head around where I was starting. Outlines save you those precious minutes.When you complete the outline, read it over start to finish looking for plot holes, abandoned story arcs and places to tighten the story. Those things are infinitely harder to correct in a finished manuscript, not to mention rereading a 10 page outline goes a lot faster than rereading a 300 page manuscript looking for errors.

When you break the story down into outline form, it provides a quick visual of your story. Like a bar chart of a company’s finances instead of reading all the data and concluding at the end, the information is there for you to see at a glance.

For all these reasons, especially to progress charting as you mark off your daily accomplishments, outlines can keep you writing. Momentum can slow if you aren’t feeling like your effort is accumulating.

That’s all for today.  I’ll talk more about outlining in my next post.
How about you? Do you outline?

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