Whether you’re trying to beat the NaNoWriMo thirty-day writing challenge or you need to submit your manuscript to an editor by a certain deadline—occasionally time is of the essence and you need to write as efficiently as possible. One of the best ways to get yourself organized so you can write your book faster is to create an outline.
6 Ways Using An Outline Speeds Up Completion Of Your Book
Categorizes your main points: For nonfiction, this means you will be able to communicate your point or points effectively. For fiction, you can cover all the necessary bases such as exposition, rising action, conflict, climax, falling action, and resolution. Many writers use a chapter-by-chapter outline layered with biographical sketches of characters and their motives.
Organizes and arranges ideas: Even if you consider yourself a bit scattered, using an outline forces you to develop a story structure and timeline. You will be able to see more clearly where there are holes or inconsistencies that you might not have noticed otherwise. You can use a whiteboard, index cards, or a digital tool like Scrivener, which lets you easily hammer out every detail of your first draft.
Limits writer’s block. An outline can help you brainstorm. When you write down one point or idea, others often flow more freely. One of the disadvantages of being a free-spirited “pantser” is that, with no clear idea of where your story is headed, the plot might not be plausible—and you’ll have to toss everything you’ve written and start over. But when you use an outline, you can visualize the ending and see the plot points that make it credible. As a result, the scenes will flow more smoothly in a coherent sequence.
Defines a story map. Any member of AAA will agree that having a TripTik is invaluable to their journey. Each one of these personalized maps plots a trip in the same way a story is mapped out. There may be some construction delays along the way, but you undoubtedly end up at your destination. In other words, it’s difficult to get lost! The same holds true for an outline. It’s a map that shows you which road to follow so that you end up at your desired destination—regardless of the detours you encounter along the way.
Becomes an automatic checklist. You use a grocery list so you don’t forget the items you need to make dinner a success story. In the same way, your story outline makes sure that you don’t forget to include key plot points, characters, or subplots. In both cases, the end result is a recipe for deliciousness—whether eating or reading!
Increases your writing speed. Raymond Chandler believed the faster he wrote, the better the output. He felt that if he was writing too slowly, he was pushing the words instead of being pulled by them. So, do you want to push or be pulled up the steep hill of completing a successful draft? If you want to be pulled, an outline is the way to go. Just remember, even if you write 2,000 wpm, if the story lacks direction, you risk getting lost—and developing massive finger cramps.
And The One Way An Outline Might Actually Slow Down Your Writing
Some writers may find using an outline restrictive and limiting, because it inhibits “what if?” thinking and creativity. Sticking to a predetermined, designated path could possibly result in writing that seems inorganic, with the story becoming stilted and stale.
Should you use an outline when writing, or not? If using an outline effectively moves your story forward and lets you zip past writer’s block—then it’s a tool that can definitely help you make the most of your writing time. But if you find that trying to follow an outline actually stifles your creativity, you should be ready to toss your “map” aside and follow the detours—and your heart.
Question: Do you think an outline helps or hurts the writing process? Why?