Posted in Outlining, Writing

Is Outlining A Good Idea?

If you know me, then you know that I love to outline before I write any of my novels. But outlining isn’t for everyone.

But how do you figure out if outlining works for you or not? Well, you just have to use trial and error. Outline and story and see how it goes for you.

To save you a little bit of time, I’ve compiled a list of pros and cons for you.

is-outlining-a-good-idea

 

PROS

You won’t get stuck.

If you outline your novel you’ll always know where to go next. You won’t write a scene and say to yourself, “now what?” The goal for your characters has been clearly set and you can keep moving right along. Also, if you stop writing for a day or two, it’ll be easy to pick up right where you left off.

Plotholes should be easier to find.

Have you ever written something and then realized it doesn’t match up with what you had written in the first book or even in the first chapter? Outlining and keeping notes will help you keep tabs on everything and everyone in the book. Hopefully, you won’t write yourself into a hole. Don’t be bringing back dead characters… well, unless the rules of your story allow it.

Character development will be easier.

If you outline, you’ll need to plan your characters’ growth throughout the story. Your protagonist will be at one place in the beginning and will change throughout and be different by the end. Or they should anyway. By outlining the scenes and plot points, you’ll map out all your characters’ growth making it easier to make them more realistic and get from point A to point B.

CONS

Takes away some creativity.

An outline is more like a guideline. You don’t have to follow it, but some people find it easier to follow it as it is. If that’s the case, then outlining can take away some spontaneity in your writing. Sometimes our characters want to do something a certain way, but if the outline says otherwise… well, you should listen to the characters. But everyone has a different opinion on that.

The story may be too short having to add on words later.

When it comes to outlining, it’s very easy to get from the beginning of the story to the end right away. Certain description and fun filler dialogue may not be added because you’re focusing too much on following your outline. The scenes may come out a lot shorter than they would have if you winged it.

It’s an extra step.

When it comes to writing a novel, the first draft especially, most people just like to get it done. First drafts are always crap, the real writing doesn’t begin until you begin the edits. I find that outlines take away some steps from the editing process, but some people find it easier to just write that first draft as fast as they can to get straight to the edits.

Whether you should outline or not can depend on two things:

1. Your personality and how you write
2. The project you’re working on

Whether you’re organized or not, outlining may be perfect for you. If you’re writing a mystery novel, outlining may be the way to go. If you’re writing an adventure novel, then winging it may seem best. It’s all up to you… and up to your characters, really.

Do you usually outline your novels? Or do you like to wing it? Let me know in the comments below!

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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.

24 thoughts on “Is Outlining A Good Idea?

    1. I always listen to my characters, but I do know some people who take their outline strictly. Sure, you have to be creative when you write the outline, but some people don’t work in new ideas as they come up in their writing.
      But everyone is different. 🙂

  1. I outline all the time. This gives me a guide and helps me keep track of where the adventure is going. In many ways, I use my outlines as a ‘half’ draft because it’s where I figure out the chronology. Combining it with character bios and flushing out any plot-central places and things really helps with the first draft. I don’t feel like I’m wandering blind and can focus on details. Even if things go off-script, I have a general idea of where I’m going.

  2. I’ve tried writing both ways, outlining first or jumping right in, and I’ve had more success with outlining. For me, the question is how much to outline. I tend to get a little obsessive and break everything down so minutely, which can be a good thing, but it also leaves me open to outlining as procrastination. A good rule of thumb is to at least outline the major plot points – turning points, moments that define the character’s journey – and then see what happens from there. I’ve also heard that you should never write a novel without knowing how it ends, but I’ve disproven that so many times in my own writing; sometimes what you think the ending will be ends up changing once you get going, and I think that’s okay too. Ultimately, like you said, it’s up to you as the writer to figure out what works for you.

    1. I done it both ways as well and I agree, outlining works better for me. I always outline “too much” too because I have to know absolutely everything. But I always set a deadline for myself and whatever I have at the start of the writing process is what I have.
      Also, I always know how my stories end. It’s actually the first thing I think of for the idea (most times). 🙂

      1. I like your idea of setting a deadline for having the pre-writing process done. Definitely going to implement that for my current project!

  3. I’m prone to outlining for any piece of writing – I love being organized as a person. With stories it depends on how clear of an idea I have. Sometimes I like to map out the whole story by writing chapter titles and then winging it based off of that. I never make a concrete outline but leave room for flexibility and creativity and change.

  4. Each project is different, but for the first time ever, I’m finding myself getting stuck more with projects I’ve outlined rather than those I’m just free-writing. It’s not even that I’m bored with them. I just get caught up in the small details I know aren’t matching up in order to make the story flow and can’t seem to move past them.

    Take Hunters’ Betrayal for example. Part of it takes place just before the start of the Salem Witch Trials… outside of Salem, but I’m finding little information about surrounding towns during the same time period to know how they were effected by the Trials if at all. It’s frustrating me and making me not want to write the novel when I could just plow through, write what I do know and come back to that which I don’t.

    Instead, I’ve basically dropped it (for now) and am concentrating on a completely different story idea about monsters that seem to be a cross between vampires and nagas as far as mannerisms go and a woman that is caught in their world thanks to her being half of one of these creatures I’m currently calling nagire (naga+vampire) because I’m sooooooo original. *headdesk*

    1. Well, you’ve got a good case of writer’s block, I’d say. Honestly, I think you should continue with both. I know that’s easier said than done, but plow through Hunter’s Betrayal. Write certain scenes that you do know about, not necessarily in order, and that may get you going again. Once you start you might not be able to stop.
      I’m with you, Skye. I’ve been stuck on my novels as well.

  5. I don’t outline anymore. I used to, but then this thing started happening where I get to the end of the outline and feel like the story has been told. It’s all written down, so my work apparently is done. It’s irritating, because I miss all the pros of outlining… I’ve just become allergic to it somehow.

    1. I’ve never heard of someone seeing an outline that way, but I do understand what you mean.
      Actually, I guess I’ve felt that way before too. Sometimes there’s a scene I’m really excited to write about so I outline it, especially not to forget it. Then by the time I get to actually write it, it’s not as exciting anymore.
      But as long as a story gets told, that’s all that really matters. 🙂

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