Posted in Writing

Why Outline?

Who actually outlines their novels? I know a well variety of people who outline and people who don’t outline. For the people who do not outline, is that a bad thing? No.

Outlining means to lay your novel out flat before you even begin writing it. You write the basic idea, certain scenes you want, character bios, etc. in a notebook, on the computer, on index cards, what have you. It’s almost as if you’ve mapped out your brain so when you do start writing, you’re able to write, write, write!

Outlining is optional when it comes to writing. It’s not like the first draft stage or the editing stage; you can actually skip the outlining stage. It works for some people, but it doesn’t work for others. Some prefer to freewrite from the get-go and go from there.

Via Google
Via Google

Personally, I find outlining to be a huge help, but even I don’t do it all the time.

I think it depends on the kind of project your writing. When deciding if you should outline your novel before writing, ask yourself:

–Are there going to be a lot of characters that need developing?
–How many different ways can my plot go? Will there be any opportunities where the plot will rip and cause a hole?
–Where are my characters based? Is the setting fiction or based off of a real place?

Of course, there’s also genre to consider. I believe that if you’re writing a mystery or a science fiction/fantasy novel, it always helps to outline. If there’s a lot of information the reader will obtain while reading the novel, how can you as the author be expected to remember it all while writing? That’s how plot holes happen.

As I said, outlining is completely optional. Will it hurt your writing? No, of course not. Does your outline need to be complete before you start your novel? No.

Via Google
Via Google

That’s what I love about outlines; there are no rules. You may not stick to your outline (or your characters might not), but that’s okay. An outline is just a guideline.

You can map out your ideas however you want, where ever you want, whenever you want. If you get stuck on your outline at some point, you can begin writing what you have already outlined. By the time you get to the end of your outline, you should have thought of new ideas to continue on.

When that happens to me, I continue to write and outline as I write. It makes editing a lot easier for me.

Speaking of editing… outlining is a great way to help edit; not just help with the first draft.

Once you finish your first draft, you can always refer back to your outline to look up certain characters, change some scenes around, etc.

All in all, outline helps you further understand your novel.

Related Articles:

How to Make a Novel Outline
Writing an Outline of Your Novel
Outlining Your Novel: Why and How

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

7 thoughts on “Why Outline?

  1. Interesting! I’m actually in a inbetween stage! I plotted and outlined so much that I didn’t write for so long that I wanted to write anything!
    So because I didn’t want to screw the job done I started to write a novel I was thinking about without outlining it at all…
    I know it sounds creazy!
    Let’s see how it goes!

    1. Sometimes free writing works best and other times an outline is needed. If for whatever reason free writing doesn’t seem to work, you can always push the pause button and start mapping out your ideas just to get a little organized. Either way, good luck with your project!

  2. I like this post a lot. I am a planner to my absolute core. But I wind myself in such knots over planning I never get started, which is why NaNoWriMo was so good for me. I love an outline. I did one before I started, and now I am at about 53K I am finding I have swayed slightly from it but thats ok. What I will do as I edit the first half is also edit my outline. I wrote mine in a kind of ‘1 paragraph per chapter’ outline, so theres about 25-30 paragraphs outlining the main points in each chapter. one of my next assignments is to write a novel outline in 750 words. I am literally crying on the inside, because mine currently stands at 3000 words!! hahaha, shoot me now! I have no clue how i am going to get that down. I am also finding i now need to write character ‘outlines’ in the form of an interview. Because i want to ensure I am 100% consistent the whole way through the book. and apparently having a full time job, being a mother, and doing a writing course, setting up a business as a nail tech, being a blogger and writing a novel means that holding all the character info in my head is increasingly difficult!! Do you use character templates/outlines/interviews? do you have any sheets you have used and found beneficial? I am just creating an amalgamated one to post to my blog shortly (when I figure out how to upload a document that can be downloaded!) but always keen to see what others use.

    1. That’s what I love about outlines–they’re just like guidelines! So if you stray from them, that’s okay. If you need to change something, that’s fine. I think it’s a good idea that you edit your outline as you go along, though. I do that as well and it certainly helps.

      As for the character stuff… I usually don’t. I make notes as I write so that my characters don’t change eye colors or something through the novel, lol. However, I did start something new just recently for my blog. I started doing Character Spotlights for my main characters to share with my followers and also so I can get to know my characters a bit better, as well.

      Here’s the link to my post: https://rachelpoli.com/2015/01/02/character-spotlight-george-florence/

      Some questions I made up and some I found throughout the Internet. You can Google character interviews or character charts and a lot of cool stuff will pop up.

  3. My outlining process tends to change with each project I work on – almost as much (if not more-so) than my writing process does. I hope to actually write a post about my own outlining process soon. You beat me to it. 😛

    1. Mine will be Thursday! Lol, I think the project has a huge say in how you prepare for it. Right now since I’m writing a mystery series, my outline is the same for each novel because I need to know the standard, “who, what, why, how, when” questions.

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