Plotter vs. Pantser? Why do I encounter many new writers who shrink from outlining? Creating an outline is the first step in writing a novel, and is often the most overlooked step for beginning novelists. After all, if you are writing an outline you actually need to know where your novel starts, and where it will end. If you just have an idea, confining that idea into a written outline can be scary, or seem unnecessary.
3 Benefits of Outlining:
The first benefit of outlining your novel before you start writing is that you know where you are going. Or you know if your story actually has enough plot to make a novel, or if it should be a short story or novella instead. You need a fairly powerful plot to carry over 50-100 thousand words. If the plot is smaller, maybe it only needs 30 thousand words to be well written and remain engaging.
A second benefit of writing an outline for your novel is that you can include some subplots, and make sure they tie in. It also helps reduce the number of plot thread tie ups during the editing process. I don’t know about you, but I hate having to make macro changes in my document because I missed a plot thread, or a plot bunny escaped the pen and went chewing all the other plot threads. Outlining helps me see subplots, and the larger plot picture. I can even plot out character development in my outline.
A third benefit is that the outline is not set in stone. Maybe your character wants to climb the mountain instead of circling it, or decides that she is in love with a minor character instead of the guy you thought she liked. No problem, write it in and keep going. An outline is not the law, it is a guide to help you avoid plot holes, and missed subplots. You can change it, or leave it as is and write your novel as it is.
When Should You Outline?
Writing the outline is only a single step in the process of writing a novel. Maybe you only have an idea, or an awesome character whispering that they have a story to star in. An outline does need both the start and the end to be successful. If you don’t know the ending, maybe you could get some ideas from another source.
You should start outlining once you know the start, and the end point of your story. For non-fiction writing, use your outline as a chance to brainstorm other aspects of your idea. You can always do multiple drafts of your outline, even when you are in the middle of writing.
If you know those things, but have no idea how they can combine, try employing a ghostwriter to give you an outline. A 500 word ghostwritten outline can be good for a 50 thousand word novel, and a ghostwritten outline can give you plenty of ideas while you write your novel. Even if you change the outline.
Back to You:
What techniques do you like using for writing? Do you outline, or just go for it? Leave a comment.