Outlining is a hit or miss for some people. Some find it helpful while others think of it as an unnecessary step. Why plan when you can just jump right into the writing? Everyone works differently and there’s no wrong way to write your own novel. I personally find outlining super helpful. The way I see it, there are two purposes outlining your novel serves.
1. Before: Ideas
Whether you believe in writer’s block or not, we all get stuck on our writing now and again. You can get stuck on any part of the creative writing process – you may struggle with ideas, the middle of your story, a certain character might give you trouble… there’s a lot of baggage that comes with writing a novel.
This is going to sound obvious, but one thing that the outline really helps with is ideas for your novel. If you outline before, ideas tend to come easier. At least, they do for me.
Outlining is kind of like a brainstorming session. Sometimes I’ll outline by summarizing what may happen in each chapter. I’ll think of something to happen in chapter three and then that particular thing will spiral into another idea or another action or thought for one of the characters. This may happen for chapter four or chapter 12. The possibilities are endless.
Of course, ideas spark as you write the first draft as well, but I also felt as though outlining gave you more ideas to play around for the first draft. That’s the great thing about ideas – they change and they improve.
2. After: Editing
Editing has always been difficult for me and it can seem like such a chore. Outlining beforehand has always helped me with the editing process later.
Having an outline while I edit is great because if I need to take a look at a certain part of the novel or forget when something happens, I can turn to my outline. I use to spend a long time scrolling up and down, pressing CTRL+F in my document, and scanning all the written words for one particular sentence or scene. With an outline, it’s easy for me to look it up that way. In a way, an outline is kind of like an index of my novel. I jot down notes and summaries as I write each chapter. It works for me.
All in all, outlines do a lot. They don’t work with everyone, but I do think there are many different ways to go about a outline. Something will work for everyone.