Posts tagged: outlining

Oct 26 2015

Workshop Summary :: October 2015

This month has been all about #PlanningYourStory. We began by figuring out the main events of the story and moved to linking them together. We just finished creating a chart to help us figure out how the plot flows and we’re moving into the last week of outlining, during which we’ll finesse things so we can have a solid base from which to work.

Next month we’ll be focusing on writing the story, following the outline we created this month. If you missed this month, never fear; it’s all there in the linked tag or on my Twitter account, and you can start at the beginning and do it all in a few days if you push yourself!

Apr 10 2012

Writing Tips: Outlining

I’ll admit it right up front: I’m not big on outlining. When I first started writing fiction, I would have an idea, sit down, and start writing. The stories (assuming I ever finished them) tended to be rather rambling, but the characters were engaging and since I was a good writer things remained interesting.

That was fine when I was ten and writing page-long short stories, but as I’ve gotten older and moved into writing other types of fiction as well as various types of non-fiction, I’ve come to realize just how important outlines are.

The biggest thing to remember about an outline is that it doesn’t have to be this extremely detailed map of what your piece will look like. It doesn’t have to be something you’re going to stick to perfectly, but it will absolutely help guide you through the maze of writing a coherent story, article, or report.

I was recently reminded of the importance of having an outline as I was working on a short story I will be submitting to an anthology. (It’s this one. Check it out and see if you’re interested in submitting!)

I started with an idea and jumped in feet first. After the first handwritten page (only half a typed page), I stalled a bit. I somehow managed to eke out a bit more and it’s just over a page long, typed.

But I’m stalled again, and I’ve realized that it’s because I didn’t write any kind of an outline before I started. The piece is fiction, but written in the style of a feature article for a magazine, which means I need at least 2000 words before it’s done. Even though I get to make up my “facts” and the experts I’m quoting, I need to have structure and a plan before I can really put it all together properly.

So, when next I settle in to work on this story, I’ll be writing an outline before I get more words on the page. I’ll probably keep what I already wrote, but I’ll be moving it to different places in the article.

When writing fiction, I like to have a really open outline. It’s more like a road trip with friends than a business trip. I’ll have a starting point and a destination, and a few places to stop along the way (i.e., plot points), but aside from that I’m free to play with the characters and the story as much as I please. Of course, outlines for reports and articles are more like a business trip, with planned stops and no detours allowed.

Remember: Writing by the seat of your pants is great fun, but when you’re trying to get a coherent idea across to an audience, or when you have a specific ending in mind, it’s best to put together an outline – even if it’s really loose and open.

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