Outlines are an important part of writing. You can’t write something without knowing where it will go. Outlines are important because it gives you something to follow when you are writing. You should have something to follow when writing so you know approximately what you are writing about, and where you are going within that story. You should also know approximately how lengthy and detailed you want your outline. Perhaps you want a simple bareboned outline or perhaps you want a very detailed outline where you go over everything in every chapter.
For example, when you are writing a fiction piece you should know approximately the pace of the chapters – when the climax is going to take place, and where the characters are going to be throughout the story. It is harder to write a story if you must keep scrolling through a document or figure out where a scene takes place or figure out a small detail for a later scene. It’s easier to write when you have an outline because you can flip through it and know which scene goes before which, and you can change things from there.
It’s hard to keep details straight when you don’t have things organized. That is what an outline is for. Keeping things organized is what keeps a story alive. You need to know how to keep details in place so that you don’t have a hard time finding them later. It’s okay if you get a detail wrong in a rough draft, but it looks sloppy to get something wrong in a final draft. Having an editor also helps the process, of course, but this is another way of keeping these details from slipping through the cracks. That is why it is important to have an outline.
Outlines are where you can keep important character notes. Sometimes when you need to remember things about a character you have to write them down. Some things that are important to know about a character are their speech patterns, things about their family, etc. It’s important to know these details because characters make up the skeleton of the story. Characters are the most important part of your story because they keep your story running. Characters are what the audience will remember when they are talking about your story, as well, so you have to put a lot of effort into that.
Something that is also important to know is setting. You need to be sure about your setting when writing. You need to know a lot about where you are and where you are placing your characters. For example, if you are placing your characters in a familiar setting like New York City you should research places in New York City so that you know about actual environments that are in New York City. You don’t want to get caught writing about a place that doesn’t exist because you didn’t research. When writing about real life cities you take the risk of sounding inauthentic if you do not research.
On the other hand, if you write about a place that doesn’t exist, you would need to know and reference the places that are in the made up place. You need to know these details so you can reference them in your story. You can’t mess up the name of a place, or landmark in this piece because it something you named yourself.
An outline may also contain a lot of research that you did for the story. When you’re writing you need to know certain things about the world that you’re laying the foundation in. Whether it be the currency, travel, historical figures, etc. It’s best to know these things and have them in your notes so that you can go back and check on them while you are writing.
Different kinds of outlines
One Sentence outline
- This is as described. First you will describe the plot in one sentence. Then you describe each chapter in one sentence. This is a condensed way to plot, but it is also a way to plot quickly. There will be other plot elements that you will need to plan out, but this is one of the first steps that you can take if you want to get ideas out quickly.
- This method can be used with a pen and paper, or software. This is a way to visually map out all your ideas. You can draw or write down ideas that you have. The idea is to write any ideas that you have and connect them together as you have them. It is a dump, for all intent and purposes. This works for people who need visual means.
Chapter by Chapter
- This is a more detailed way of writing an outline. You write out the details for each chapter and write it out as detailed as you would like it to be. The idea is to get down all the details for the chapter so that you can nail it down a bit more.
Post it Notes
- Writing plot details on post it notes and putting it on a wall or board could also work. This is a great way for a person who is more visually inclined.
Pros + Cons
Pros of making an outline:
- Keeps the story on track
- Helps visualize a bigger picture
- You can record scenes and know which scene goes where
- Character arcs can be clearly presented
- Writer’s block can be eased by an outline
Cons of making an outline:
- It can feel too stiff if followed too carefully
- It can feel inauthentic
Outlines are very important, and they are a time saver. They make sure that you know where all the details for your settings, and characters are. If you want to write something you should make sure that you have all your details in line. A successful writer relies on an outline because they know that they can’t remember all the details by themselves. I highly recommend using an outline if you want to start writing a novel!
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