How important is a story outline?
It all depends on who you ask. Personally, I think a story outline is very important. It’s something I definitely need in order to write. It’s like a road map to me. I have to know where I’m going if I’m ever going to get to my destination, which is the end of my book.
I know several people who say they can’t write an outline, they just write where their imagination takes them. If that works for them, or you, that’s great. I’m not like that though. I have to have some sort of structure, some framework, that tells me where I’m going and what to write next. I also like to know what I’m writing towards, my goal, my ending.
I did not start writing an outline at first. I just began with an idea and started writing. My muse must have liked my idea because it joined in and started adding more ideas. My story was growing in complexity and detail. I needed some way of keeping it all straight and figuring out how it was all going to fit together.
I needed an outline.
Not knowing anything about the format for writing an outline, I started writing a vague description of what my story was about. I didn’t break it down by chapters. I just wrote scenes. I took my notebook with me everywhere. Whenever an idea came to me, I wrote it down somewhere in that notebook. My greatest inspiration usually came to me when I was at lunch. I had a whole hour to sit and think and ponder the possibilities.
Now that I’ve finished my outline, I’m in the process of typing it into the computer, where I will add in more detail and find a place for all those notes in the margins. Now would be a great time to have a little more structure, a better format.
I decided to look around online and see if I could find out some information on writing an outline. I found a plethora of links and spent a lot of time sifting through them, weeding out the useless ones with a sigh of disgust. Honestly, I think most of the people out there trying to tell you how to write an outline have just copied and pasted something out of an encyclopedia. I wasn’t looking for technical advice so much as personal advice.
I did find a couple of places that “spoke” to me. I came across an online magazine called “suite101.com”. People write and submit articles on every subject imaginable, but my interest was in the writing and publishing section. It was amazing. I read a few articles on writing an outline and saved the link for future reference.
Another article I found (I can’t remember where) talked about “mind mapping”. I was curious so did a search on it and found a whole different way of making an outline. It intrigued me. The concept was to start with writing your main idea in the middle of your page and like spokes on a wheel, writing your chapter ideas around it. It was a minimalist way of doing it, using single words or short phrases to convey ideas. It reminded me of a sort of “family tree”. I liked the idea so much that I found a free version of the mind mapping software from “freemind”. I downloaded it. I’ve used it. It’s amazing.
I know everyone is different and we all have different ways of writing and creating. I hope the information in here has been useful to you. I know it has been to me. I started writing these “rants” in order to share any information I may have that might help someone in their own writing, but it has really helped me out too. It has motivated me to research ideas and learn more about writing than I did before. So, if the only person this blog helps is me…it’s worth it. If it helps out someone else, that’s just icing on the cake.