When writing a story, first piece of advice most people will give is to first write an outline for you story. This can be very useful method and it will be as complicated as you make it.
- It takes forever to do!
Depending on how complicated and detailed your outline is it can take hours or even a few days if you run into plot holes or get stuck at certain plot points.
- You need to already have created a character profile
This is very important because sometimes when writing you come to a point and think, ‘this won’t work. My character won’t do that!’ This can mess up your story because you can either follow your initial plan and make the character inconsistent or change the story which creates other messes. Evolution of a character happens before and while you are writing them, so when you are writing your outline you need to think what will my character do here? Why would he do it? How does this make them feel?
Personally I try to think of a backstory or just have an idea of the environment they grew up in. For example with my character Castor, he grew up in a palace where there is a lot of dishonesty, politics and betray so he does not trust anyone. He does not for a long time talk to anyone about himself and is always nice to people even disingenuously. He is also very naive and tends to make rash and frankly stupid decisions because he is grew up sheltered and is inexperienced.
- You might hate your story
This is both an advantages and a disadvantage. Sometime your ideas are just not good or just do not make sense. Often you cannot tell if the idea is good or not until you write it down. This can be upsetting but in the long run it will save you from wasting time on a story you will not end up finishing or end up hating. Plus the sooner you realize the problems the sooner you can fix them.
- Always know what to write
Outlines act as a guide so you always know what to write next and are always clear of what you are writing. It is lot easier to create set-up when you know why and how it is important to the climax. Knowing what is going to happen and what part of the story you are writing helps with the pacing, foreshadowing and help avoid plot holes.
- Works out the kinks
Usually if there is a part in your story that you get stuck at or just does not make sense you can catch it in the outlining stage. Fixing it sooner will make writing the story a lot easier. It will also be possible to eliminate tangents and loose threads, since once you write an outline you can find incomplete arcs and inconsistent plots.
- Know what kind of story
Until I finish my outline I often do not realize or see what kind of story I am writing. This is beyond the actual plot or genre, for example tone, message and subtext. The tone I think is the attitude and feeling a story conveys. This can impact the pacing and style you choose to use. The message is basically what you want to tell your reader through your story, what impact do you want your story to have on them? In my current story is a fantasy/adventure/romance but the overall message is that it is okay to be selfish and to do what you want without feeling guilty. Subtext is saying something without actually saying it using very suggestive descriptions but not actually describing what you mean.
Foreshadowing is great and outlines help you know what are the plot points you are foreshadowing. As well as figuring out the optimal place to put the foreshadowing.
An outline can be very useful (I even wrote one to write this blog) but it is not necessary, you should write how and what makes you happy.