writing a book outline

Outlines have been ingrained in the writing process ever since the first great story was written. As years passed, many authors consider a question as they develop as a writer; is writing a book outline important?

Writing A Book Outline:

Some authors would argue that outlining a story goes against the organic nature of narrative writing, but others will argue that writing an outline allows for a fully fleshed-out story with a coherent plot. There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your writing style. If you tend to write stories with no outline, chances are, you’re not going to write an outline for your book.

However, before you put pen to paper, or keyboard to screen, consider the benefits of an outline before you take on such a large task as writing a novel. Below are some reasons for you to write an outline, and the difference that could make your book the next great novel or the shelf filler at the dollar store.

What is your story about?

It’s important to know the skeleton of your story before you write it. You don’t necessarily need to have all the details of the story, but it’s good to have an understanding of where you want the story to go.

You will need a more detailed understanding of your story than “good guy fights the bad guy in the medieval times” because you’ll need to know how your character progresses from point A to point B.

There are a couple of questions you should be asking yourself as you figure out what the story is about. Who is the main character of your story? What is the protagonist’s situation and how will they progress throughout their story? What is the point of the story and what adversities will the main character face in order to reach their goals?

These are the type of questions you need to ask yourself when you write your outline.

Heather Price, a biological researcher who is trying to prove herself in the field of molecular biology faces the inner demons of her parent’s lack of support for her profession because they wanted her to take over the family business instead. In her disparity to make a name for herself in the field, she accidentally causes cells to mutate into a devastating virus. It is now on her hands to find a way to eradicate the virus she helped create.

Figure out who your characters are

In the beginning stages of your writing process, you should know the main characters of your book. As a writer, you will need to understand how your characters are connected with one another in the story.

A helpful system multiple writers use to develop their characters is by interviewing the characters of their book and answering the interview questions from the character’s perspective.

This process will help you craft fully fleshed-out characters, and it will allow you to portray character depth and development. Knowing your story’s characters will let you craft more realistic relationships for your protagonist, antagonist, and supporting cast.

Sample Character Questions:
What’s your family like?
What do you aspire to be?
What bothers you the most?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What kinds of people attract you?

The big ideas of your book

Write down all of the ideas you have for your book. How does the character get from one point of the story to another? These are the ideas you need to have brewing in your head. Planning out your book ideas will help you understand how the story begins, where the conflict occurs, and how you’re resolving the narrative.

Even though you don’t know how these chapters will move forward, write down your thoughts and you’ll experience uninterrupted writing more frequently since you’ll have a cache of concepts for your book.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with ideas for your book, a brainstorming session will be very beneficial for you. Some might find brainstorming childish, but this technique is used by chief executives, top-selling authors, and innovators to come up with answers to resolve problems.

Brainstorming Sessions:

Since brainstorming sessions allow for all ideas to flourish without rejection, these ideas can be refined and you can come up with thoughts that would not normally surface due to creative barriers.

Once you have all of your ideas written down, you should review your list of ideas, and figure out which aspects of your list may create problems in your story somewhere down the line. Take note of these problem ideas and see if you can fix the issue before your start writing. Try visualizing the process and see if you can fill the plot holes before you invest countless hours into your story.

Write a Master Outline

Once you have your story concept, characters, and big ideas, write a master outline for yourself so that you have something organized to refer to when you’re writing. This will help you keep track of all of your thoughts and prevent the loss of novel ideas you spent time formulating. Having a master outline will help solidify how your story is going to progress, and you will be able to internalize the story progression much better since you figured out how the story fits together.

Since you will have a holistic understanding of how the story will move forward, you’ll be able to write faster, better, and with ease.

Write an outline for chapters

When you’re ready to start writing, write a brief outline or idea progression for the chapter you writing. Keep the Master Outline in mind as it will help you keep the chapter in perspective on how the story will end. Having a short outline for your chapters will allow you to stay on track and know where you’re going as a writer.

Make these outlines vague so that you have free roamed to be the great writer you’re meant to be and keep the writing process organic.