The Write Process 2021: Outlines

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I am not going to get into the Plotter or Pantser debate in this post. I am simply going to provide my opinion on outlining in the process of writing. Now that you have an idea of what you want to write, it’s time to get those ideas organized. How you organize them, like everything else in writing, is based on your personal preference.

My personal preference is not to outline.

I’ve tried multiple times to be an outline person, but in the end, I produce a much better product when I am flying by the seat of my pants. Does this make things more complicated for me in the editing stages? Yes! It takes a lot longer to edit, and I have to do substantial note-taking to keep up with continuity across my series, but it’s worth it for me. I find Outlining makes me overthink the small things and hinders my creativity.

With that being said, I haven’t given up on Outlining completely. I tend to do some sort of outline post writing, even if it’s just to ensure my story flow hits the right marks or as a guide for event timing in future books.

I guess you could say I have Story/Series Bibles that I store my pertinent information for reference but nothing that really details my work’s content. In addition to the Outlining Strategies from my previous article, I will be adding a few systems I’ve incorporated over the last year.

Ways I (Try To) Outline

Get the bigger picture and find some wall space!

 It doesn’t have to be an entire wall but maybe the size of a large wall calendar. Give yourself enough space to expand with as much or as little detail as you.

I took up an entire wall of my office to try and organize my Secret of Ceres Series. It was very helpful for me to visualize the crossover plotline, but other than that, this idea fell flat for me. That isn’t to say it might not work for others. Longer novels with lots of complex moving parts could benefit greatly from this option. You have plenty of space to put note cards, post its or whatever you want to organize your scenes and thoughts.

Speaking of Note Cards….

Use note cards, both physical and virtual! Notecards work great when you need to shuffle ideas around. Most writing-specific software includes a notecard format in their outline section for that reason.

I use Scrivener for most of my organizing. Freeing up my wall to be filled with painting and other artistic inspiration. Having the virtual notecards not only makes my notes more portable (Scrivener has a cloud save option), but I’m also more eco-friendly! Also, using virtual notecards ensures my notes don’t get destroyed or lost due to sidekick shenanigans. I don’t think readers will accept “my dogs ate my notecards” as an excuse for why my novels are delayed.

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Remember, your outline doesn’t have to be fancy or complex. A simple line graph can be just as effective for some people. A good working outline will not only help you create your masterpiece in record time but will help streamline the editing process. So even if you are a Pantser like me, give outlining a try. You might find you are Plantser instead.

Ways to organize without “outlines”

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Idea boards – Similar to the notecard method, write your ideas for scenes on a notecard or sticky note. That way, when it comes to organizing your novel, you have something handy to play around with to help you decide on your story flow!

Story/Series Bible – A notebook or file folder that contains all your notes and pertinent information for the continuation of your story or series. (More on Story/Series Bibles in a later post)

Spelling and Pronunciation Guides – A must-have for your story/series bible. It will help you streamline capitalization and spelling across books, help your editor find inconsistencies, and be needed for audiobook narration.

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