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.

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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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On Quests And Adventures: Where Is Your Hero Going And Why?

We all know that a novel isn’t really a novel if the characters don’t do anything or if they don’t go anywhere. Most of the time (but also depending on the genre), the characters leave home and go on some sort of journey.

This can happen in a number of different ways.

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What’s the difference between Adventure and Quest?

Adventure is when you go on a long expedition sometimes to unknown territory. It’s exciting, a little scary, and maybe a bit bizarre.

Quest means you’re searching for something or someone. I guess you could say it’s like an adventure, but with more meaning behind it.

Why would your protagonist go on an adventure or quest?

So many things can happen to the main character in a story that begins the plot, that causes the protagonist to move forward.

  • A stranger comes and asks for help
  • Someone they know and is close to asks for help
  • They get a message from someone somewhere
  • They’re adventurous and go off on their own running into the heart of the story
  • A threat is being made to someone, something, or somewhere and they must try to fix it
  • They may not journey anywhere. Someone may journey to them and they go from there

Anything that would cause your protagonist to jump out of their seat and go is a reason for them to go on an adventure.

Of course, they may not even want to go on the adventure and they have to be forced or convinced to get going. I think that makes everything more interesting.

For example, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins doesn’t want to go on a journey. He’s perfectly happy staying at home, away from everyone else. They have to convince him and he even passes out in the movie. (I can’t remember if he passed out or not in the book. It’s been a while.)

Meanwhile, in Disney’s latest film, Moana, Moana wants to go on an adventure, but everyone stops her. It’s not until something drastic happens that she decides to go against everyone and just go.

Some characters have that sense of adventure and others don’t. Which trait is your character likely to have?

Where do they go?

They can go anywhere.

They can go to the other side of the state, to the other side of the country, to a new country, or halfway around the world. Or, they can even go to a different time, if that’s what’s needed for your story and genre.

Or, as I said earlier, someone could journey to your protagonist. In which case, your protagonist’s home could be the destination. Together, they search deeper in their town or village for whatever the stranger needs or wants.

In conclusion

Writing about adventures and quests is a lot of fun. It adds more depth and meaning to the story and allows you explore who your characters really are. You find out what they would do in certain situations and you discover things about them you wouldn’t normally see if they had just stayed at home and continued to go to work every day.

Of course, I think this depends on the genre as well. If you’re writing fantasy, someone is bound to go somewhere. If you’re writing a high school drama, not too much is going to happen other than the occasional college visit.

What do you think of adventures and quests? Do you typically write them? What other advice do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!

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How To Create a Timeline for Your Novel

Maybe you created a brand new world and need to give background on its history. Or maybe your novel switches back and forth between the past and the present to get your plot across. Maybe, like me, you have a string of crimes to follow.

No matter what genre you’re writing in if you’re writing a series chances are you’re going to need a timeline of events.

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There are many different ways to create a timeline for your novel. Everyone works in different ways at different paces, so some of these ideas may work better than others.

1. Excel Spreadsheet

I think using a spreadsheet would be easy enough, well organized, and easy on the eyes. You can create a graph-like timeline using the columns and rows. List your dates in a column and then include what happens on each date in the rows.

You could also list the dates in the first column and list the characters in the first row. Then you match up the character to the date and write in what happens to them.

2. Word Document

This is similar to the spreadsheet, just a little less organized. Just create a long list of dates in chronological order and write in what happens on those days.

Sounds simple enough and it’d be easy to add in dates in the middle in case you forget something.

3. Calendar

Get a planner or download/create a calendar template on the computer and fill in the dates as needed. If your novel takes place from May to December, then only create a calendar for those months.

4. Index cards

Make an index card for each date and then string them together or tack them together on a bulletin board. This would be a lot of work, but it will look cool at the end–especially if you decide to string them together in order.

5. Poster

Create a cool-looking timeline just like in your old history textbooks with the horizontal line and the dates sticking out of it. If you’re like me, use pretty colors to highlight significant dates.

I wish I had a picture of my poster to show you, but I have yet to finish my timeline. Math is my arch nemesis.

That I spent my weekend playing video games.

How do you keep track of the dates and events in your novel?

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