7 Reasons to Write With an Outline

Writing essays and short stories as a high school student and even in university, I was able to jot down my research and ideas in no particular order and then just start to write. And as I wrote I referred to my jumble of notes, ticking off each idea as I incorporated it into the work. My brain seemed to be capable of holding the whole thing in there without a detailed plan. And that’s how I started writing Loyal to the Crown.  A year later I had what would surely be the next best thing on anyone’s list.

If only my writing had been as great as my ego.

Today book two is screaming to get out of my head but I am following a different plan of attack. Squeezed in with preparing for a great agent conference in three weeks and fixing up the minor improvements suggested by my editor, I am following a plan to get book two out a whole lot faster.  I am outlining.

7 Reasons Why:

1.  The outline helps me to see where the story arc is and, indeed, if I have a story arc with rising action.

2.  If I know where the story is going, I can insert seemingly insignificant details which later on will play a part  in the plot.

3.  I can see at a glance the timeline in my historical facts and easily interweave my fictional characters’ lives.

4.  The actual writing will go much faster as I’ll know where my characters are going and what their respective problems could be.

5.  Starting each day’s work will be easy as I’ll have my roadmap beside me and know my characters’ journey.  That blank page will not be so daunting.

6.  I won’t have so many problems wondering if I already had my hero shoot that intruder or if I just dreamed it.

7.  If I have to take an unforseen break for a week or two, God forbid, I will still know where the story is going and how far I’ve come.

So here I am, proof positive, that you can teach an old dame new tricks.  Time to get back to my outline.

Do you use an outline?  How detailed should an outline be?  What do you see as disadvantages to using an outline?  Consider leaving a comment.

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11 thoughts on “7 Reasons to Write With an Outline

  1. I have tried writing without an outline. It is impossible for me.

    More than once I have set off with a “awesome” idea only to grind to a halt fifty to one hundred pages down the road

    Writing without an outline or plan is like running a marathon without knowing where the finish line is.

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    • Hello 3by3 writing method commenter! Thanks so much for your comments, especially the grinding to a halt one. What a nasty experience. And I now think you are right with your last comment. Isn’t it great that we humans can learn and improve?

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  2. You have given a concise list of reasons for outlining. But I’m afraid this ‘old dog’ hasn’t learned this ‘new trick’ yet. I have never written with an outline, but I can see the benefit. It has just never worked for me. I have tried, but often the story creates itself as I write.

    I don’t know why, but we never had to write essays or short stories in high school. I did write a short story with illustrations in Grade 8 (about being shipwrecked on a deserted island!), but other than that, I don’t recall any writing assignments. We studied lots of books, but only had to answer questions about them. I never even knew what constituted an essay! Mind you, they are not my forte, either, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. 🙂

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  3. Hi Success! Welcome back and thanks for your comment. Did you notice I used the future tense for some of my list? That’s because I haven’t actually written my second book. I fully expect I’ll end up deviating from the plan. And I’m okay with that. Have to let the creativity animal loose like you do, don’t you think? I just hope the plan works overall.

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    • I have written a number of books – none published yet 😦 – and it seems the creativity runs the show – most of the time. Until I get stuck. A couple of books I have left for very long periods of time before I could get back on track again. And maybe that’s good. I really think different methods work for different people – or people types, perhaps. I am a very unorganized (disorganized?) person who lives in a lot of clutter (don’t like it but that doesn’t make it go away), so being organized enough to create an outline just doesn’t happen for me. I wish I were more organized. Maybe I would get more done that way. Oh, well, that’s the way she goes!

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  4. I wrote my first 2 books with no outline and had to do major revisions. With book 3 I used Karen Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days, but I can’t say it’s helped me to get the book on the page any faster. I realized I need to add more action in the middle and I’ve been sidetracked with other projects. As soon as I get my submissions off to the agent and editor I met at the M & M conference, I hope to get back to it. Although I’ve got another novella brewing in my head!

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  5. Elaine, I so relate to your post. I wrote my first two books without an outline. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I don’t know how I imagined I could just pull together a riveting plot with twists and turns character growth at novel length. Essay, sure. Flash fiction, of course. But 100,000 words? As I work through revisions, I see how all my years as an avid reader paid off–writing ‘by feel’ I wasn’t too far off the mark. But there are countless pages of drivel, asides that go nowhere and serve no purpose, and opportunities missed. I know what to do to clean it up, but time has been wasted, first, when I wrote the go-nowhere drivel, and now as I correct it.
    Like Sharon, I’ve invested in Karen S Weisner’s First Draft in 30 Days. I’m boarding that ship in January with writing buddy Carole St-Laurent in January to start my next novel off with a running head start.

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  6. Thanks for telling your story re outlines, Sherry. All of this experience will surely help others decide what process to use, bearing in mind each person’s individuality.
    I certainly will be looking into yours and Sharon’s book recommendation!

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  7. Oh the most exciting part is writing the outline! I love that stage! It might get revised as I’m writing the novel but seeing my outline take shape like a movie that plays in my head, that’s the fuel that sparks my enthusiasm for a new project.

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