Should You Outline Before Writing

Every author tends to have a personal process when writing. However, struggles like writer’s block are universal. That’s why there are techniques to streamline this process like the Feynman Technique that we discussed in our previous write-up. This is a method designed for learning new and complex concepts wherein authors have to familiarize themselves with the plot of their novel until they can teach the story to someone else in simple terms.

The Feynman technique is just one method out of many to outline your story before writing. This helps authors see the scope of the story and the bigger picture of the narrative so that writing becomes easier. Still not convinced? Here are a few other different ways that outlining before writing can help.

Preserving ideas and stories

Inspiration can come to writers in the most obscure locations, but frustratingly not when they’re in the process of writing itself. That is why Pulitzer finalist Joyce Carol Oates in her Masterclass discusses the importance of keeping a journal when preserving ideas and stories for the future. Here, one can practice jotting down events from their day, things that make them grateful, and ideas for future books and articles in a neat outline.

This allows an author to look back over those entries when in need of inspiration. This also encourages creativity while sharpening one’s senses for writing.

Writing more and faster

Many writers try to create a realistic timeline for writing a book, and this process could be sped up by having an outline in advance. The Writer Files, a popular podcast on Scribd, spoke with author Jeffrey Deaver who is known for his extensive outlining process. According to Deaver, his outlines can be as many as 150 pages long as they include every element of the plot. He especially details when each character enters the story and when they leave.

When he finally begins the process of writing the story, he is able to churn out 5,000-6,000 words a day to complete 110,000-word books in less than two months. When we compare this with The Blog Herald’s sample computation of a writing timeline of 8 months to reach a 70,000-word mark, we can see a stark difference. That’s because an outline already tells the writer how the story will progress from beginning to end. Writers simply need to fill the contents out.

Relieving blank-page syndrome

Blank-page syndrome is another word for the dreaded writer’s block that frustrates every aspiring writer. Author Eric Maisel interviewed creativity coach Louise Warren on overcoming blank-page syndrome and how writers can move on to a different section of their piece when stuck. This is made possible with an outline.

An outline chronicles every section of your story, so even if you temporarily work on a different section, you can still ensure that your story follows the original plotline. This prevents you from having to adjust any preceding or succeeding events that take up more time.

Avoiding getting sidetracked

There are times when authors create various subplots to increase the depth of the story or the psychology of a character. While subplots can be necessary, it is also an easy reason for writers to detract from the main story until the subplot is no longer relevant or until the main story feels unfinished.

Writing takes discipline, and having an outline can help emphasize the vision of your story so that you stick to the progression of your main plot. The subplots can still be created but will remain within the bounds of being merely supportive of the main story entirely.

That is why outlines are a common tool for successful writers. To begin yourself, check out a couple of our story plans at Story Planner with our easy-to-follow steps that help writers plan ahead. With effort, time, and a great outline, you can become a writer with better stories each time.

For more writing tips do read our other blog posts on Story Planner.

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by Reed Jewel