Outlining your Story – Seven Final Tips

Finally, we come to part four of my Outlining your Story series.

We talked about tools and technology in Part 1.
We talked about characters and backstory in Part 2.
We talked about premise and plot in Part 3.

Today we’re going to wrap up with how we tie all of that together.

Part 4 is Seven Final Tips when Outlining

I hope you’ve been able to enjoy my articles on creating an outline. I’ll end with 7 Tips you should follow when doing an outline.

1) Everybody outlines a different way.

The tools and topics covered through this series give ideas, but what you do is completely up to you. You know what will work with you, and if you don’t know yet… You certainly will once you start trying things. Play around, and remember that how you outline isn’t a fixed things. You’ll change the types of things you want to be thinking about.

And even as you change those…

2) Your outline will need revisions

A lot of them. You are going to change details, change the order of scenes. You are going to add things and take them away. You are going to cut characters or add them as needed. Maintaining your outline can often take a lot of time.

So all the while be sure that you…

3) Devote time to your outline… The right amount.

If you have over 1000 major and minor characters, and the most twisting and turning plot imaginable… It’s going to take some effort to keep you outline going. And it will probably be worth it. Mystery stories for example: There are a lot of threads to keep track of… Clues, Red Herrings, Suspects. The outline will likely need to be a living, breathing thing so you don’t drop any of those threads. A short story for a writing competition… Probably needs less maintaining. It’s possible as you drift off script, you just finish the story, and the outline doesn’t reflect what you have written any more. The effort to sync them up isn’t worth the return.

Which means that it’s really important that you…

4) Don’t forget you have an outline.

You wrote it for a reason. Stories change as you write, but think of the story you wanted to tell, the message you wanted to deliver, the statement about human life you are making. Are you making it? If you aren’t, are you okay with that? There’s nothing wrong with a different story, but do it knowing that’s what’s happening… Not because you wandered aimlessly and found yourself lost.

That said…

5) Don’t be afraid to find yourself in unexpected places.

The outline gave you a framework, but it’s primary purpose is to put your head in the right space. If you spent a bunch of time writing an outline, and when you start drafting up the novel, you find yourself writing something completely different… That’s okay! The outline got you going; maybe details on the world, maybe characters. Regardless, it was a tool to get you writing the story you needed to write. The new places you go may really make your story better. That may adjust the relevance of things already there.

So make sure you…

6) Don’t feel obligated to use everything on your outline.

Some of it was meant for your own notes… Even if you flesh out a nifty scene that you really want to see in the book… If it doesn’t fit the pace or the action, maybe you don’t need to use it. Just knowing it happened may be enough.

And once you’ve done all this…

7) Be sure to actually WRITE!

Like the first chapter of your first book, there’s a tendency to keep trying to make it better and better… Trying to reach perfect. You can’t reach perfect on an outline. The very nature of it will change as you actually write. I can tell you from experience one issue I ran into as I made more judicious use of outlines: An outline is not a substitute for writing. It should facilitate writing a fast first draft. Your book only gets finished when you take time to write it. So make sure you go for it!

Please let me know if any of these tips help, and good luck on your journey as you Start Your Fiction!

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