Outlining is a good tool for writing, whether you write fiction or nonfiction. Some people write their stories organically, letting it grow from their thoughts. I believe that they are outlining the work, they have an idea of where they want the story to go, they just don’t write it down. I prefer to write it down.
A good outline equals a good structure for a story or piece of writing. I find that an outline is essential for me to know where I am in the story and what needs to happen. It can help with pacing as well. If you have a good outline, you will write a better first draft. That’s my opinion. Pantsers, those people who prefer to write without an outline, do have an outline in mind. They know what they are writing and direct their writing, they just don’t write out an outline in advance.
I write a broad outline and do mini outlines for the scenes. That said, I have to admit that I keep my outlines flexible enough to let the story grow organically. I will write a sentence to describe the action in each chapter. Then, when I go to write that chapter, I have an idea in mind, but the chapter grows organically from that sentence. Outlining helps me to organize my piece. Done correctly, an outline gives a writing piece the structure that it needs to hang together.
I use scrivener to write. It has spaces for me to write scene descriptions. That is where I put the sentences that comprise my outline. Basically, I use the outline as a description of what I want to happen in the scene. That’s crucial to my writing process. I start with the broad outline and divide the scenes accordingly. Then I flesh out the sentence into the required action.
Outlines help me make my writing better. They help me get the action down in the correct order, which saves me time in revision. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to revise the work. Sometimes I get too far from the outline and have to work on previous scenes to make the new direction fit into the overall work. An outline is just a road map or guide. It isn’t turn by turn, but a more of a “go this way” series of signposts.
Using an outline is a personal choice. There’s no law that says you have to use an outline, but if your writing is not progressing without an outline, try using one. You might find it helpful.: