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.
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.
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.