Almost every writer has an opinion about outlines. Some writers swear by them. Some hate them. Many writers are baffled by them.
As National Novel Writing Month approaches, many writers will find outlining a key ingredient in the recipe of finishing their novel in a month.
1. Outlines are a Road Map
Very few people would jump in a car to take a long journey with no concept of destination.
Writing a novel without some sort of outline is like deciding to take a vacation and jumping in the car with no plan. There might be some awesome sights seen along the way but there are also many avoidable challenges.
Outlines, at a minimum, should show the author the direction they want to take. It is the map equivalent of saying one wants to visit Disneyland and planning a trip with that destination in mind.
Before sitting down to create the roadmap for your book you should understand your end goal. Not just for the story but for the journey you want your book to take. For more thoughts on writing end goals read How to Organize Your Writing Project.
2. Outlines Don’t Have to Be Too Detailed
Many writers feel that outlines will restrict the adventures they can take on their writing journey and they fear they will miss exciting roadside attractions on their quest to the destination.
Outlines can be minimalistic with a beginning, key scenes, and end noted in bullet points. It can equally be a detailed excel sheet describing every planned scene and listing who is present in the scene and what the goal of that scene is for the novel.
3. Detours Are Okay
Once a writer maps out the outline they can still take detours along the way if a new idea strikes them or if they stumble across a better road to take as the story is unveiled.
Outlines are tools, not contracts. Writers shouldn’t adhere to them to the detriment of their stories but they are a good way of keeping the writer focused on where the story is intended to go and to get the writer back on track after a detour is taken.
4. Genre Matters
Most genres have a built-in road map that writers of the genre should follow. Writers who plan to self-publish can deviate a bit more from genre norms but they should still be aware of them so that their audience is satisfied.
For example: in a romance novel, the characters who will fall in love must meet. They must spend time developing a relationship. The relationship must blossom and then there must be an incident that threatens to tear the couple apart. Finally, the couple must come back together and there must be an indication that the couple will live happily ever after. Even if a writer only plots out these points of their romance they are more likely to stay on their story’s path than an author floundering around with only the goal of a happily ever after somewhere near the end.
5. Map Out the Characters as Well as the Plot
Many writers assume outlining only involves planning the plot but that does them a disservice.
The plot is important and understanding where a story goes is extremely valuable for discovering a story but plots without characters don’t come alive. When an author outlines they should include the character arcs along with the plot. This allows them to write character growth and to map that growth along with the map of the plot.
Outlining is a valuable skill even when an author isn’t trying to write a novel in a month.
Once you’ve completed your novel, InstantPublisher can help assist in completing the book publishing process.
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