How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Outline

Back when I first started writing, I was staunchly anti-outline. I wrote for years and years without outlines—because I felt like they cramped my style—but I also rarely finished anything. At the time, I didn’t think about whether these two things were connected, though they probably were.

Then, starting in mid-2014, I resolved to finally start finishing my books. I finished writing one novel, then another. The first one I finished was not outlined at all. The second one was, but badly. Both novels need a lot of work, but I noticed that writing the second one was slightly easier. The outline was not the best, but it was something.

While working on both of these book, I began outlining a third novel. It’s for a science fiction idea that I came up with in early 2014 and have been thinking about ever since. I started outlining chapter ideas and making a character list. Then, I went a step further and did more note-taking and planning. I ended up with pages and pages relating to the world I planned to write in. This book takes place in the distant future, so I made a timeline of what happens between now and when the book starts since there are a lot of changes between now and then.

I started working on this book at the end of March. I recently passed the 20,000-word mark, right where I usually start to lose momentum. I haven’t lost any momentum this time, though. I am still just as excited about this book as I was when I started writing it, which is remarkable. I know where the story is going and how I’m going to get there. My chapters are longer and more fleshed out. The outline is helping me out so much.

So if you aren’t an outliner, I’m here to try to convince you to see the light, like I did. 🙂 An outline will:

  • Help you plan and focus your story
  • If you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, or another genre that requires a lot of world building, an outline (and taking random notes about your ideas) can help you flesh out your world.
  • You don’t have to worry about keeping track of all the threads of your plot. It’s all written down, which makes it easier.

Don’t agree? Try writing your next book—or even a short story or novella, if you’re still not convinced—with an outline and see how it goes. And remember, just because you’ve outlined something doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. My outline has actually changed a bit as I’ve started writing and had some new ideas for the story.

Do you outline? Do you have strong feelings one way or another? Let me know in the comments!


5 thoughts on “How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Outline

  1. I never outline, though I know I should. A lot of my writing always starts out with one idea and ends somewhere completely different because of it. I’m sure outlining would help, but right now I kind of like that place that I ultimately reach even if it’s not what I planned on.


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