To Outline, or Not to Outline?


Writing basics are almost over, does it make you sad? It shouldn’t. Because now it’s time to charge forward like a samurai on a T-Rex with cannons attached at the shoulders. And by that, I mean you should be ready to move on to the next level of the Writer’s Conquest. But that’s next week. Plus, it never hurts to revisit the basics from time to time.

One major topic of discussion in the writing world: To outline or not to outline? That is the question.

The short answer is: Depends on what works for you.

The longer answer is below.

Outlining can be one of the best tools for any writer, particularly aspiring ones who aren’t sure where to start. Outlining in any capacity can create a logical series of steps for you to construct a logical beginning, middle, and end to your story. You will possibly find odd gaps in time that seem out of place, or discover new chapters to bridge said jumps.

The other side of the aisle would argue that outlining hinders writers. It instantaneously limits them because the outline dictates how the narrative will come together. No matter who you talk to, you will hear conflicting information, that’s why it does actually boil down to the short answer. Plus who’s to say that you create an outline, begin writing, and suddenly have a revelation that throws the latter two-thirds of your outline out the window. Does it matter? Not if the revelation is that important. Think about this: Would you have had that revelation if you hadn’t prepped the first outline?

Writing will always have organic movement to it. You may discover something about a character that changes a key decision. That could be fantastic as it will flesh them out more, and help you create a more compelling conflict for the hero to overcome.

There are multiple forms of outlines: index cards, bullet points, chapter breakdowns, journals, Post-Its. The best way to find out what works is try. See if there’s an outlining method(s) that feels natural. Do you feel a spark take over when you begin connecting character sheets or create 25 events that happen in your book? The other side asks if you feel hindered by the outlining? Does it feel more like accounting and financial management as you create “The Plan” than it does a creative process?

If that’s the case, just start writing; see how far you get or how good it feels. Some writers absolutely refuse to outline, they simply start writing, then edit and refine as they go to create a more fluid narrative and define the characters. So, really, it all boils down to the short answer: Depends on what works for you.

Subscribe to travel the mighty Writer’s Conquest and receive updates in your e-mail automatically. If not, check back here, or my official website, to see the latest and greatest. The conversation’s always live on Twitter @ThomasAFowler, use the hash-tag #WritersConquest. Have you seen my YouTube channel that talks about each level of the Conquest? Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you again soon. Kick some ass, and be proud of what you do.

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