Outlines are useful tools in the writer’s toolbox. Even if you write without one, you probably still have one in your head. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you know where you are going with your writing piece. That’s all an outline is – a map to the action of the story.
An outline creates a framework for the piece. It gives you direction as well as ideas of what to write about. A good story has structure. An outline provides you with that structure. It can be a place holder for ideas for scenes and action. It can be quite helpful if you have some idea of where your writing is going. It can help you map out the action.
They help the writer know what should come next in the work. I know. Some of you prefer to write with no idea of where the piece is going or because it seems as though your characters want complete freedom. That’s OK, but an outline can help you achieve the milestones in the story that you want to reach when you want to reach them. An outline helps you stay focused on what the story is about rather than wandering in the mire of unformed ideas.
That’s not to say outlines aren’t without dangers. There are times when an outline is not helpful. If you get too bogged down in details, you find yourself writing the outline over and over again while trying to include everything. The outline is not meant to plan the piece down to each sentence. It’s only meant to provide a broad skeleton of the action, not the action itself. If you spend too much time writing the outline, it can cause you to lose interest in the story. A broad outline is sufficient. Just a brief note of what needs to happen at what point in the story is all you need. Adding too many details can make you feel as though you have already written the story. Leave the details to the writing portion of crafting your story and just note the broadest description of the action.
Overall, outlines help me to write my stories. I know what needs to happen in each act of the story. I can fill in the details as I write the action and introduce my characters. They just keep me moving towards the final scene. I tend to write in a linear fashion, from start to finish. That’s me. Others jump around, writing a scene here and another scene there. It’s good to know where those scenes go and an outline can help with that. It makes the writing flow easier.
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