The One Reason I Outline As I Write The First Draft

When I first started writing I always thought that you needed to outline before you began writing the first draft. That’s what I was taught in school, after all. I always had to brainstorm and write an outline to pass into the teacher before handing in the first draft of the essay. Most often than not, I’d write the essay and then write an outline based off what I wrote and passed them in respectively when they were due. My teachers never suspected a thing. Still, I always outlined my novels before writing – until recently that is. Here’s the one reason I outline as I write the first draft.

The One Reason I Outline As I Write The First Draft | Novel outlines | outlining your novel | creative writing | blogging | RachelPoli.com

There used to be a lot of steps I’d take in order to get through a couple of drafts of my novel. Why? Because I had to take notes. Notes meant an updated outline.

In other words, I would outline, write the first draft, then as I edited the first draft I’d outline again updating the original outline with anything that changed or was out of order than I originally intended. I would do this for every draft as well.

The reason I did this was because it became easier for me to edit if I have a solid outline or even a table of contents so I didn’t have to scroll through the whole manuscript to find that one certain scene.

Then I decided to cut out a step here and there. Now I outline as I write the first draft.

It keeps my first draft together.

Sometimes I’ll do research and make a list of characters and such before I begin writing but now I outline as I go along and write the first draft.

Not only does this make the editing process easier since I have that guideline, but it also helps as I write the first draft because if I need to stop writing for the night, I can always look at the outline the next day to remember where I left off and keep going without any hiccups.

This keeps my first draft together and allows me to brainstorm new ideas, expand on existing ideas, and get going on that first draft quicker. I’ll write a scene and then when the chapter is over, I’ll make a note of it in my outline. It reminds me of what happened (yes, even if I wrote it five minutes ago) and allows me to ponder on it more. Sometimes I don’t think of what could happen next until I write a summarized version of what’s already happened.

For me personally, I think outlining while I write the first draft works the best. I remember most of what’s going on in my own story and it keeps me organized which is what I like best.

When do you outline, if you outline at all? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around!

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13 thoughts on “The One Reason I Outline As I Write The First Draft

  1. Sometimes a mental outline can be just as useful as a written one. Thoughts don’t necessarily have to go onto paper. Planning ahead while writing something can be just as useful. I found that when I was writing an upcoming novel that is in its second or third draft.

    • I agree with that. I personally can’t remember things if I don’t write them down though. I applaud people who can. 🙂

  2. This technique seems like a great combination of plotting and pantsing that allows for the creativity of pantsing while providing the structural advantages that you pointed out.

    Also, it occurs to me that it provides a big headstart for someone on a synopsis if an agent or a publisher wants one.

    • Yeah, it’s really the best of both worlds in a way. If you find something that works for you, whether it be plotting or pantsing or both, stick with it. 🙂

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