How many times have I talked about outlining on this blog? Too many to count most likely.
I personally love outlining. I’m a super organized person in real life and a tad OCD about things. That goes the same for my novels.
Outlining isn’t for everyone, but it can be used as a means for editing. That’s why I’m asking this question…
When I outline my novels, I make a list of characters, a list of plot points, summarize each chapter, and then bullet scene by scene. I also make a list of editing points as I write the first draft.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never outlined a short story before. When I write short stories, I tend to base them off a writing prompt I found somewhere on the Internet or I’ve created myself. Then I just start to write and somehow I end up with a short story.
Then the editing comes along and then… what?
There’s a short story I wrote a long time ago. It was for one of my creative writing classes in college. (I’ve been out of college for two and a half years, so… it’s been a while.)
Since writing it, I’ve edited it, and edited it, and edited it. I’ve submitted it to contests and magazines, but haven’t gotten anywhere with it. Still, I’m not giving up on it. In fact, I’m waiting to hear back from a magazine about it at the time of writing this post.
I submitted it to another place this past August. That story I sent in was the seventh draft. Yes, 7.
It’s grown a lot in the past few years. Did I outline it when I first wrote it? No. Did I outline it when editing? Yes.
Why bother outlining a short story… especially when it’s already been written?
Like I said, I love outlining. But I don’t outline my short stories because I just tend to roll with it. I have noticed that outlining the story after it’s written can be a huge help to editing.
I’ve been saying it a lot this week and that’s to keep your short stories simple and to the point. Only add in important aspects about the plot. Give detail, but not filler.
Outlining your short story is prep for the editing process.
- What’s important?
- What drives the plot forward?
- What can I afford to cut out, if needed?
Create a list of characters and write down their purpose. Are they all needed?
Bullet-list each scene and briefly summarize what happens. Is each scene important and paying its rent to the plot? Do some scenes have too much information or not enough? If not enough, is it really needed?
I did this for my short story and gave it one last edit before shipping it off to my writer’s group a few months ago. A car accident happens in the story and everyone agreed that I had put too much detail into that scene.
They said that when you get into a car accident (to the extent in the story), you’re not looking at your surroundings describing the scenery. Especially not if you have big injuries.
Looking at their feedback and then looking at my outline, I was able to easily pinpoint and judge what was too much in that scene. I cut a lot of it out and rewrote what remained. Reading the story now, I agree that it’s much better and flows nicely. Plus, the less description added more tension.
So, should you outline your short stories?
It’s still up to you, but it definitely doesn’t hurt. I know everyone works differently, but this has helped me.
Maybe it’ll help you too.