Outlining can be a very touchy subject for many writers. Some of you may feel that outlines are just a useless step. You may think, ‘Why waste my time outlining when I could just be writing the thing?’ You may very well be able to sit down and write an entire story without using an outline, but let me ask you this: How clear is it? Is this the best it can be? The answer to these questions may be less than what you had expected them to be. Outlining can and will change that.

Outlining could be the very thing to turn your story idea (or scribblings) into a full-on book. Or short story. Or novella. You can even use an outline for non-fiction articles and papers!

Outlines have may purposes. They provide you, the writer, with a clear path on which to build your creativity. They are not strict; outlines are merely the guidelines you set for yourself while writing a particular story so that you know what you want to do before you do it. You can change it, you can move it around, you can even scrap it and make a new one. For five specific reasons to outline, hop on over to this article.

There are many types of outlines you can choose from:

There’s the Grade School Style:

Scene: 1

Setting: At your desk

Characters: You and your cat

Purpose: To make a structured outline for your newest story idea

I.Uses Roman numerals and letters to form a chronological plan

a. Can be very structured

b. You don’t have to use complete sentences

II. Starts at the beginning of the story and ends with the very end

There’s the Nutshell Style:

Scene: 1

Setting: Still at your desk

Characters: You and your cat

Plot: You write everything in this particular scene from the letter the scene begins to the last punctuation mark, and then you move on to Scene 2, and so on.

There’s the Note Card Style:

(This particular one is helpful for moving scenes around as you build on your story. You can also put this into a spreadsheet in the computer for an easily-movable, electronic outline.)

Setting: At your desk                                                       Card #1

Characters: You and your cat

  • You jot down the happenings of a single scene in chronological order
  • This can be as detailed as you want
  • Each scene gets its own note card

Goal: You write down the goal or purpose of the scene

You can even create your own if you want to.

Just be sure that as you outline, you should include the setting, characters, and purpose of each individual scene so that as you go back to write what you have outlined, you aren’t stuck on who to put in the scene or where they are. Outlines are meant to help you solidify your thoughts and make the writing process smoother, not to keep you from writing.

I hope this has helped you in your journey as a writer! Thanks for reading!

Categories: Fiction/Non-Fiction Writing, For Your Journey | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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11 thoughts on “Outlining

  1. Getting it on paper is the closest to how I do it. I generally have the concepts moving around in my head, with an overview of how it starts and how it ends. At the most, I’ll write a few words of embellishment for scenes (chef sabotages rival’s dish, sous tells the rival, rival sits on info for now) but I don’t personally go into huge detail.

    The closest to the methods above that I’ve used would have been the Nutshell Style, though I spent so long planning that I never got around to writing that particular story. I know they work for many people, but with me, ‘doing it live’ is probably the most pragmatic method.

    • Thanks for leaving a comment!
      I think that it is so cool that you can keep it all internally! I know I could never do that, and I’ve tried to. If I don’t give myself an outline, I’ll add too much stuff to the story to the point that it becomes muddled and confusing. But I’m so glad that it works for you!

  2. Pingback: Plot Line Completed! | Whisperer of Words

  3. Lindi, Great post. I’m always interested in seeing how others outline. I think this is the most difficult part of writing and possibly one of the more important parts. I developed a note card system that worked for me and then later transitioned that method to a feeware writing program called ywriter. I blogged about it a few months back. Of course of tweaked it some since. I’m always tweaking things a little here and there.

    I’m with you on keeping things in my head. Near impossible for me! Kudos to Nick!

  4. I’m currently trying out something called a ‘snowflake method’, it gets very boring and I feel it isn’t very creative but it does seem to help me get all my ideas together. I currently really stuck with names so haven’t written for a couple of weeks but i want to get a name that really works so i dont mind the gap.
    I also like the idea of creating a sort of story board where you draw each scene then write and summary and the main mood of that scene.

    • I’ve never met another writer who draws, too! I sketch out my characters and clothing and setting before I sit down to write so I know exactly how to describe what I want. For the name thing, I kind of cheated and went out and bought a Baby Names book from the store. All the names have their meanings listed, which can help if you know how your character is (i.e. happy, strong, sometimes even occupation). If I can’t find one I like, I usually will then combine a few that didn’t quite fit and make my own that has its own meaning for the story. Hope that helps. 🙂

      • I don’t draw very well but would probably be able to sketch enough to get an idea together, haven’t tried it yet as I wanted to give the snowflake method a good try first 🙂

  5. I have a neat little Writers Digest Sourcebook I bought some years ago called Building Believable Characters. It has a section with names for many nationalities including surname and given names. Also is a great resource for describing emotions, has hundreds of facial, body, and vocal expressions categorized by mood. Just looked on Amazon and it is still available too: http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Sourcebook-Building-Believable-Characters/dp/1582970270/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1365647853&sr=8-1&keywords=Building+believable+characters.

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