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Five Reasons You Should Outline

by Kellyn Roth |
March 7, 2018

five reasons why you should outline
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!

Reason #1

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.

Reason #2

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.

Reason #3

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.

Reason #4

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.

Reason #5

It’s Fun!

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. 😉

Recommended Resources

Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (and lots of great articles on her site, Helping Writers Become Authors)

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.

Thanks for reading!

~Kellyn Roth~


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?

What do you think of my thoughts?

35 Responses

  1. This is SO GREAT!!!! I needed this a lot, as I’ve been slacking in the writing department lately and getting bored with my WIP, but you’ve helped me see that I need to outline!!! Hopefully that will inspire me and get me excited about my book again!!! Thank you so much!!! 😀
    Your friend and sister in Christ,

  2. I also outline my stories. I find that if I messed up in the outline, though (forgot to think about what I’m going to write during a time-lapse *glares at Once Upon a Goose*) (a story idea of mine 😛 ) then I’m pretty lost. ? (Still trying out how to fix that…)

      1. It was actually a really good idea; it was my take on The Goose Girl, but in my plotting, I totally forgot to plan for the lapses in time between each big thing that happened. And I can’t think of any filler. So it’s kind of hanging around for now, waiting for me to finally have an idea. ?

        1. Ah, okay! Nice! That’s a really neat story. 🙂 I get that filling in stuff. I’ve got to get from September to the end of November somehow in my current WIP … uggggh!!!
          Is there anything else you can add into the story in between the plot points? Character development? A subplot? Can the time-lapses be shortened?

  3. Ooh, I loved this post! As a bizarre hybrid between plotter and pantser, I have a weird view of both sides of the spectrum, and therefore basically completely agree with the pros and cons of both plotting and pantsing. XD
    HOWEVER. THAT BEING SAID. I also think it’s really important to have an outline! My outlines are never very severe, leaving plenty of wiggle room for my pantsing half, but I like to have a sturdy, if not extremely vague idea of where I’m headed before I begin writing. I’ve also found that having an outline keeps me invested through to the story’s end, which is something I’ve constantly struggled with in the past??
    But anyway, I really loved this post! It was unfortunately not a post on why I should online, but it was very interesting and helpful, nonetheless. ?

    1. Haha, that’s hilarious! I can get that, though. Like, I am a pretty obsessive outliner, but at times I’m just like, “Eh, forget it! I can wing this!” (Honestly, I can’t, though. I think pantsers are a lot more talented than plotters … or at least a lot more organized! After all, they can keep all that stuff in their head! I have to write it down or the book wouldn’t get written! 😛 )
      That’s cool! Sounds like a great plan. Honestly, half of it is what works for you, and finding your own system is what’s most important! 🙂
      Thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. <3

      1. I know, right?? That’s pretty much exactly what I do! XD (that is so true. I can’t even begin to think of having ALL of my ideas stored simply inside my head, because I would forget a TON of what I wanted to write about. XD)
        Very true! Which, honestly, I think that’s one of my favorite things about writing. Everyone’s process is all different, yet we’re all just trying to write a good book. XD

          1. *highfives* (I’m thinking about getting an SD card implanted in my hippocampus… XD)
            Yes!!! And it’s also fun to take a single prompt and see how many twists different writers can come up with! It’s so weird how it all works out.

            1. Oooh, good idea!!!
              Oh, yeah, that’s so much fun! I kinda want to do a writing contest just for that … only I’d do it a little different. 🙂 Anyway, yeah, different people think up such crazy different stuff!

              1. Oooh, that sounds wonderful!!!! I’m actually hoping to turn the PictoPrompter into a writing contest one of these days, but I need to make the prizes, and I. . .haven’t yet. So. 😛
                Yes! I love it!!!

                1. I actually haven’t thought about prizes, either. But that would be a great incentive! I should do that … though I don’t know what would be a good prize! I could purchase a bunch of books (not my own; others’) to give away or something? Because writers love reading, right? Maybe do a couple different genres? I don’t know …

                  1. I know, right??? Prizes are the best!!! OOOOH! That sounds like a marvelous idea for a prize!!! For mine, I’m going to be making hand-made watercolor notebooks, so there’s probably only going to be one winner every few months or so. XD YES. Writers LOVE reading. I think it’s a required law or something…

                    1. I hope so!! I have different ideas – themed to my book, lol – for a giveaway I’m planning now … like a package of stuff related to my novel and then second prizes that are less … me-related. XD I’ve got to figure this out for the blog tour I’m planning …
                      That sounds awesome! 😀

                    2. Oh my word!!!!! That is SO epic. I can’t even. I REALLY want to enter this contest thing now… MAKE SURE TO KEEP ME POSTED ON THIS!!!! XD Ooh! A blog tour??? That sounds like so much fun!!!
                      Eep! Thank you!!! <33

  4. “Go and plot no more.” I DIED.
    I agree with every single point in this post. I mean, I still pants my short stories, but when it comes to a novel outlines are crucial.

    1. *bows* Thank you, thank you … 😛
      Yes, short stories are a lot better for pantsing … if I plotted, they would turn into novels. 😉 Okay, not really, but they would be added to the list of ideas I want to write but don’t have time to … and therefore never actually get written! 😀

  5. Okay, I totally forgot about this post and didn’t even read it and now I just want to run away because I don’t like outlining…….. *hides*
    But super good advice, Kell! I really should outline cause I’m kinda stuck in my WIP(one of them that is). Writers block is the worst…………… 🙂

    1. Haha, well, it’s not for everyone! Like I said, there are lots of great pantsers out there who really succeed well at it … though I don’t know how … XD 😛
      Thanks! Aw, too bad! Writer’s block is terrible. :/ But you can do it! Just … um … magically make the writer’s block disappear! XD

  6. I need to outline.
    I think that’s about as far as I’ve gotten.
    I do have a google spreadsheet though that holds major scenes I need to not forget… so does that maybe count to a degree? It helps keep out most of the plot holes, and I’m counting on finding the rest of them when going through second drafting.

    1. Yes, that certainly counts! Any kind of pre-planning counts as outlining in my book … and not everyone outlines the same! (I’m a crazy outliner; go into lots of details. But not as detailed as some, I’ve heard! Some people basically write a first draft for their outline. *blinks*) But that sounds great to me!

What do you think of my thoughts?

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