What is a Story Outline?

Whenever I get a new idea for a story, one of my favorite parts of the writing process is the outlining phase. But what exactly is a story outline? Well, I like to think of it as the chance to get your story and all its ideas out into the light from the swirl in your brain. Where you can see them and examine them. You can really make outlining as easy or as hard a phase as you want.

Some people like to jump right into writing their first draft and see where their ideas will take them without any prep work beforehand.

I am not one of those people though! Maybe it’s because I was taught in school that to write a good story, research paper, letter, whatever; it is important to at least have an idea of what you are going to say!

Outlining, has for me, been my saving grace for my writing. When I get a new story idea, I have so many ideas, names and research questions floating around in my head! When I feel I have finally got a good handle on the main story (usually, I have worked it all out in my head), I like to clear my schedule, grab some paper and write out the entire story in a rough, chronologically order.

Then I guard those papers with my life! 🙂

Besides giving me a big picture overview of my entire story, I have found that there are a couple of other helpful things that outlining your story first before you start any major writing does.

1. When you are able to see your entire story laid out before you, often times the theme of your story will start to reveal itself. If it doesn’t, having an outline makes it easier to weave in a theme (if you want!) later.

2. Having an outline can show you any glaring plot holes you might have. It might all make perfect sense and work out perfectly in your head, but remember that your readers are not in your head and you have to lay everything out very carefully.

3. I like to use my outlines very much as a brain dump/mind map for my story. At each plot point, I scribble notes about character descriptions, research questions, and words or phrases to use.

4. If I come up with a new idea to add to my story, it is very easy to take a look at my outline and see where I might be able to include it smoothly.

5. If I have to leave my story partially unfinished for awhile and then come back to it, (which happens too often!), I can just read over my outline and found out where I was going with the story!

If you are interested in learning more about outlining, I highly recommend this blog post! It is a fantastic read! Outlining Your Novel

So, how about you? Do you outline your stories first? Do you have any good tips?

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