Update 9 June 2017

No updates in my story today. I have spent all day writing and re-writing my outline and summary for the second arc for my story. I changed the a lot of things about the beginning of the second arc so I need to change my plan for the end of the second arc so the next few chapters will be later than planned. I also want to start sending my story to beta-readers soon so I am currently editing/re-writing from the beginning. If you are interested in beta-reading let me know.

 

Thank you.

Writing an outline

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Everyone has a different approach to writing stories, some just get down to writing and other make a detailed plan before even tying a letter. Personally, my approach falls somewhere in between.

Method 1 

  1. Write a list of key events, characters, foreshadowing, plot points etc…

Is that all you need? Then you are done.

Method 2

  1. Write Character profiles
  2. Write a key events and plot points
  3. Order events and separate into chapters and arcs
  4. Fill in the details, backstories, subplots and connecting events
  5. Order everything again
  6. Write a timeline of events and figure out how long they take and how they overlap
  7. Write a summary with a lot of detail

Method 3

  1. Write summary. Start from the beginning and write to the end in order. Write what feels natural and flows best.
  2. Read what you have written
  3. Re-write the summary
  4. Repeat step 2 and 3 until you are satisfied

Did you get stuck? Write something to get to the next event even if it is silly or contrived and come back to it later and change it in the re-write.

Method 4

  1. Start writing

Yeah, sometimes just writing works too. Did you get stuck? Write something, anything and come back to it during editing. Hey, if you wanted to be organized you would have chosen a different method and started with a game plan.

Method 5

Do whatever you want. It is your story do what works for you!

 

I use method 3 because I think it creates some organisation but is very dynamic and the least stressful. I also end up adding the most random stuff to the story which end up being my favorite parts. I have recently been writing the outline for a new story which ends with an abrupt alien invasion. I do not know where it came from but it just fit.

Why make an outline for your story?

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.

Disadvantages

  • 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.

Advantages

  • 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

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.

Thank you.