Finally! We’ve reached the part you’ve probably been waiting for since part 1. The outline!
If you’ve started to put on the brakes at those words, don’t. Don’t run away yet. Hear me out.
Outlining can be done as minimally or as deeply as you want to. The beauty is, it’s all up to you. Whichever way suits you and your writing best. I used to have a lot of misconceptions about outlining which I will address at the end of this post, so stick around for that.
For me, I do a minimally complicated outline. XD I totally just made that up. Want to hear about it? Well then, read on.
Following a Structure
Again, once I discovered Abbie Emmon’s templates, I was sold. Personally, I follow her breakdown of the three act story structure and it was a game changer for my writing! Outlining suddenly made sense. Not only that, but I loved it!
But there are a lot of structures out there, you don’t have to use hers. However, I would highly recommend following some sort of a structure because otherwise you’re simply grasping at thin air with no clear direction or goal. I take the three act story structure break down and fill out each point. This will take multiple paper crumplings, plenty of brainstorming sessions, and several cups of tea.
Sound fun yet?
But seriously, despite the headaches it might cause, I really do think it’s fun. Not only that, but it is so beneficial when I sit down to write. Knowing that I need to get from point A to point B can free up my headspace to simply focus on the writing and not on what should be happening. It’s so helpful, I can’t stress that point enough.
Misconceptions I Used to Have
There’s really not much more to say about the outlining process. It’s really quite simple. You pick a structure, and fill out the beats. So I decided to talk about the myths I used to believe about outlining and hopefully debunk them for you as well. Let’s get started!
Myth #1: You have to be an organized person
Whenever I heard of someone outlining, words like “programs”, “format”, and “organization” always seemed to be tacked on somewhere. It was words like these that scared me. I will humbly admit that I am not always the most organized human being on this earth… especially when it comes to writing.
Do I magically have to become organized in order to outline a novel? The short answer? No. I learned that everybody outlines differently and you simply have to find the method that works for you. My favorite way is to cut up pieces of paper (I call them stickyless sticky notes), write down my scene ideas, and tack them up on my bulletin board in the order they’re going to play out. This will cut down my stress level majorly by being able to visually see my outline. I’ve also written it all out in a Google doc before and found success in that. Now all you have to do is find what way works best for you.
Myth #2: Outlining takes the fun out of writing
Starting out as a discovery writer, the only way I knew to write was by figuring it out as I went. The idea of outlining sounded like it would put a wrench in my creativity and take all the fun out of writing. Again, I had to realize that it depends on how you do it.
I quickly learned that I am not one of those outliners that creates a 30,000 masterpiece that is simply your outline. When I outline, I still like to leave blank spots between scenes. In these places I will still know where I need to start and where I will need to get to, but in between? It’s all up to me and my imagination.
But even if I didn’t leave these places, I’ve learned that sometimes there is only so much you can plan out and there will be times when a surprise scene pops out of nowhere. (Or maybe I’m the only one with characters who have plans of their own…) So the truth is, outlining does not zap the joy out of writing, or at least it doesn’t for me. I find I can enjoy writing better when I know what is going to happen ahead of time.
Myth #3: It takes more time to outline than it does to write
Another thing I thought about outlining was that it took an eternity to write! I mean, come on, I could have had the first draft done by then, right? But could I really?
When I actually sat down and thought about it, I realized something. Without an outline, it was taking me… too long… to finish a novel. Scratch that, I rarely finished a novel. The cycle was always this: come up with great idea, jump into great idea, get bored with said idea maybe a month later, and scrap the book. Get the picture?
But when I started outlining, it forced me to think on my ideas a while before jumping into it. It almost builds up the anticipation of writing while becoming more prepared at the same time. (A win win to me) I’ve also heard it said before that outlining, in a way, is like writing the first draft. You see all the possible plot holes ahead of time and are able to fix them, saving you time later on. Who doesn’t want to skip a bit of editing?
Still, outlining can take some time. No matter how much time it may save you later, all you can see is the present. That’s why, when I outline, I set one month for me to get it down. The order of these posts are actually exactly how my process looks. I take the first week to focus on my premise and synopsis–of the root of my idea–then the second to think solely on my characters and how to make them the best they can be. The third week is when I fill out the beats on my outline and the fourth… well, let’s not give anything away shall we.
The point of all this is to show you that you can come up with an amazing outline. Even if you’re a discovery writer. Even if you’re unorganized. Even if you have doubts. Even if you’re afraid of the whole idea. You can do it. Take a deep breath, and focus on your story.
Remember what I said in my previous post, to write is a beautiful thing. Don’t ever forget that!
How do you outline? Do you follow a structure? What are some myths you’ve believed about the process?
4 thoughts on “Preptober Series Part 3: The Outline and Debunking Myths”
Oh, I’m gonna check out the three act structure…I’ve yet to get my outline done…all I’ve got is a bunch of character and world info and random scenes floating around my head…lol…I need to organize it all.
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You should! I can’t recommend it enough! I’ve looked into several outlining structures but none of them make as much sense as the three act story structure does. It’s great!! Haha! Hey, that’s better than nothing! You should check out Abbie Emmons preptober YouTube series she’s currently putting on. I’m going through them to outline my Nanowrimo project and loving them! She has so much valuable advice to give and beneficial tips. I love it!!
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Awesome! I’ll definitely give it a look…if I find time…I don’t know where it’s going lately…lol…probably have too much on my plate, but whatever…haha…
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Haha! Well I hope you find time because I’m enjoying it so much!!