You’ve decided to finally take the plunge and start that novel that has just been itching for you to start. Before you can get that story straight, though the first decision you should make is whether or not to outline.
Outlining can represent a complete play by play of your entire novel, down to every scene detailed out, or it could just be a simple paragraph about each chapter to help keep your mind focused on the important parts of your story. Outlining has many benefits that can help you turn your ideas into your novel, but every writer is different and there are writers out there that don’t like to and chose not to outline. Whatever you choose, every writer is different and what works for one might not work for another.
Are there benefits to outlining, though? And, are they big enough to make you want to consider taking the outlining route before you start your first draft?
Let’s face it when you know exactly where your story is going, and have detailed out chapters and scenes, getting the story to flow from your brain, down to your fingers, and onto your computer screen is going to be faster.
KEEP YOUR ARCS IN CHECK
No reader likes an underdeveloped plot or character, and having an outline allows you to watch both your plot and character arcs to make sure that you have them starting at one point, ending at another, and give them the tools they need to gradually travel through both of the places.
Knowing what you want to accomplish with each scene and chapter will help keep you from going off in a different direction. Of course, if that direction is a new avenue that should be considered in the plot, like a mild plot change, then, by all means, go with the flow, but if it is just an unneeded twist that drags down your story, it’s best to let it go. And, an outline will help keep your pace on track.
If you know what you want to happen and how you want the story to end, it’s easier to write the scenes to get that ending you want. If you are just writing to write the story, you might find that you could go in several different directions because your whole novel was written in several different directions.
No matter the genre you chose to write in, at one point you will need to do some research. Whether it’s for historical purposes, how to create mythical creatures, a new language or even a whole new world in fantasy, or how to commit murders in thrillers, mysteries, or horror, you will need to look things up. Having a detailed outline of the different scenes in your novel will help clue you in on when you need to do research.
You can’t really foreshadow events if you don’t know they are going to happen. But when you outline your novel first, you know when and where to have certain clues and hints to what could happen in the future. If your character is going to fire a gun in act three, you better place that gun somewhere within your characters grasp in act one or else it’s going to come off as too convenient.
WRITING INTO A CORNER
When you don’t know where you want the story to go, it’s a lot easier to throw in a plot twist that suddenly comes to a screeching halt in a corner you can’t write yourself out of. Outlining allows you to plan ahead and even if you find yourself adding in a new twist, you can still keep yourself on track if you know where you want the outcome to end.
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