Writing Advice: Outlines


Last week we talked about story structure and how it plays into the writing process. Once you have decided on a story structure to use, the next logical step is to work on an outline for your story. Of course, outlining isn’t for everyone. I know some folks like to write by the seat of their pants. They sit down in front of their computer and just start writing, letting the words lead them in the direction of their plot. But some of us are control freaks and need a bit more organization and planning before the writing begins.

But where do you begin? Outlining is a quite large, blanket term that can sound daunting if you’re just getting started. How do you format this outline? What should be included in it? What points do you need to hit in your outline? These are all excellent questions and I think they could all be answered in this spectacular post by Chuck Wendig on his blog, terrible minds, entitled 25 Things You Should Know About Outlining. Yes, this post contains a lot of helpful information, but it turns out that most of these questions can be answered thusly: it all depends on you. Your outline should reflect what will help you out the most when writing.

One bit of Wendig’s blog post that stood out to me was item #12, which discusses whether you should include small details or larger details in your outlining.

12. MACRO TO MICRO — You can go as big and broad or as tiny and micromanagey as you want when it comes to outlining. Some folks outline just the tentpoles of their fiction—“These five things need to happen for the story to make sense” Others detail every beat of the story—“And then Martha makes a broccoli frittata, summoning the Doom Angels.” Do as you and the story demands.

Once again, it all depends on you. If you want to just hit the major points that will take place in your plot, that’s fine. But if you want to outline every detail of your story, that’s fine too. Just go with what feels right and with what you think will help you as you progress through the writing process. Give outlining a try if you haven’t yet!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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