If the title of this article gave you anxiety; you are not alone. Outlining your WIP can be done so many different ways, and I’m here to relax you a bit and tell you; you do NOT need to outline your story. Pretty awesome, right? Here’s my take on it.
There are a few different ways to start writing a story and there is not one correct way of doing it. No matter what others have told you. Even when I was in high school and college, they always made us do outlines. Everything needed a damn outline. But to me, it’s just like math. While there are many different categories of math, the two examples I will use are Algebra and Geometry. Personally, I hate math with a burning passion, but if I were to choose one over another, it would be Geometry. Everyone I’ve asked, comparing which one they would prefer, they would give me a definite answer. “Geometry, definitely,” or “Algebra, all the way.” Yes, I know, they are two totally different areas in math. But my point is, one comes more easily to them than the other.
Mathematical Approach = Algebra = Outlining / Visual Approach = Geometry = Free-Hand
It’s the same with prepping your story. Outlining can be very useful; if you know how to do it properly. If you don’t know how to do it the right way though, it can just be a hindrance or quite possibly make you dread continuing on. I’m not hating on anyone who chooses to do an outline. As a matter of fact, you’re probably really great at it and tell everyone to do it! And that’s fine.
There is a term known in the writing world called “pantsing.” This basically means you do not outline at all and just write. Let the story come to you. This is what I do. Even though I consider myself a fairly organized person, this is how I prefer to write. I don’t always know every single detail of the story, especially if it’s a novel, with almost 100 thousands words. There’s simply too much to know at the starting process. The ideas flow through me as I free-write and sometimes it’s hard to stop. The only “downfall” might be that you need to edit more, but you need to edit after any first draft. Whether it’s outlined or pantsing.
However, a technique that I do is a little of both of these techniques. Let’s call it “loose outlining.” I use Google Docs to write everything (cause it saves every 3 minutes or so and is a serious lifesaver) and I’m able to create several documents. I have these documents labeled into their own special categories.
The first document is for characters. I type out as much detail as possible for each character, including: characteristics, behavior, goals and appearance. This is a good thing to have as well for a quick reference. Forget what eye color they have? Refer to your character guide.
The next one is for scenes. Mostly, major scenes. Events that I already know will happen in the main story line (and sub-plot too). After you begin to really write your story from the beginning, these are as easy as pie to copy and paste where you want them. You can even do scenes that aren’t major. If you know of a silly conversation you want between two of your characters, write it out. The more, the better.
The last is ‘writers choice.’ I use this one for flashbacks for my MC. This document can be for anything that doesn’t really fit the other two categories. This could even be used for all your sub-plots if your story is so complex that one document for every scene is too much. Do whatever you want.
Bonus: Make another document for your over all story. What I mean by this is, make a ‘mock-up’ summary of the story you haven’t written yet. Just write it out. Doesn’t have to be pretty, or organized, just write out what you picture happening in the story, especially the ending. It helps to know how it all ends.
After you have everything planned out, you’re ready to start writing your book! You then just place your scenes you already wrote out where you want them, like a puzzle! Everyone loves puzzles, right? Of course you do.
If you have been putting off your WIP for far too long because you just can’t get your outline perfected, have no fear! You’re no less of a writer or creative mind if you just can’t make one. Your brain just works differently. And different is not bad.
Let me know if you have struggles in this area; we writers need to stick together! Also, if you have any tip or tricks of your own, please put them in the comments below. I would love to see your process! ##