Outlining is time-consuming. If you do it in any depth, it’s pretty difficult … but is it worth it? Why not just skip the extra step completely and move on to the actual writing – that’s what you’re here for, after all, isn’t it?
In this post, I’ll be “outlining” (couldn’t resist) my top ten reasons why I think you should outline before you ever consider writing your book.
Now before we go any further, a disclaimer: this post is unashamedly pro-plotter. However, I do understand that pantsing works for some people very well. This post is about why you should outline … but if it doesn’t end up applying to you after you’ve done some experimenting, go and plot no more!
Now, without any further ado, I’ll move on to my five reasons you should outline!
It Gets You Excited About the Story!
After spending weeks or months outlining a story, I find my excitement to begin writing is built to an extreme level. I can hardly wait to put pen to paper! I’m not only inspired, but I know exactly where I’m going and therefore writing has come easier.
Also, there will be times in your life when, even as a fiction writer, you will have to write even when you don’t want to. An outline gives you not only a clear path to follow, but allows you time to think of something to make a boring piece of writing interesting while not just staring at the cursor blinking.
No Details Lost
I admit that on occasion I have changed an eye- or hair-color mid-story, totally forgotten that the characters already discussed something, or lost track of who-was-born-where.
Outlining (which includes character sketches, etc. by my definition) can and will keep you from losing track of all those little details … as well as the big, important details.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I totally forgot to include a scene or something similar that I wanted to put in my story. Returning to add it in is just a pain. But with outlining, I don’t find myself doing that quite so often.
Lessens Chances of Writer’s Block
With a clear path to follow and your excitement built up from the work you’ve already put into the story, writer’s block is at least semi-prevented. I’m not saying you will never get writer’s block.
But … it will help you push through if you know where you’re going. The more detailed your outline, the more clear your path to writing that next 500 words.
Also, if you need to skip ahead because this scene just isn’t coming from you, it will be easier for you to return, find your place, and write what needs to be written. Outlines are great for keeping you on track.
Majorly Lessens Revisions
I was recently talking with another writer about how outlining (and research, etc.) should be considered another draft. Because … that’s what outlining is. A very rough, first draft. Your first draft, therefore, could almost be considered a ‘second draft.’
I know that’s a complicated way of putting it, but it’s true! With outlining, you lessen the chances of plot holes and other major issues. Your revisions are shorter … and in the end you don’t have to spend so much time fixing things. Because it was never broken.
I know, I know. Am I a mad woman? Of course outlining isn’t fun!
But … it is. It really is.
I’m sorry, but there’s something magical about stitching a story together, even before you’re writing. It’s a time of endless creativity.
You might say, “Well, sure, I can be creative in the first draft!” I disagree. To do all the proper foreshadowing and such in a first draft, you really need to know what’s coming before it comes.
With an outline? You can know what you’re going to do next, so foreshadowing is easier, and you don’t risk a lot of plot holes and other things from creative wanderings.
And … those are my five (main) reasons! I’d love to argue with you in the comments if you disagree, but I truly believe that outlining is awesome. 😉
For Haters of Outlining, my post: The Truth About Outlining Revealed
Plot Bunny Into Story? for those of you outlining from scratch.
And a couple posts from my “Plotting Crash Course,” which was forever ago (and therefore the quality is low), but is still semi-useful/accurate.
- Set-Up, Gathering Materials, etc.
- Character Sheets and Aesthetics
- Outlining Your Novel + Perfect Review
- Cheat Sheets
Thanks for reading!
Do you outline? Why or why not? Do you think my reasons are legitimate? What reasons to outline could you add or what reasons to not outline would you bring up?