As I revise the first draft of my new manuscript, I can’t help but reflect on my writing process. One aspect that’s essential for me is outlining.
Outlining can take many forms, from a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown to a simple list of key plot points. Regardless of the level of detail, an outline provides a roadmap for your story.
I firmly believe that outlining is an indispensable tool for any fiction writer.
But outlining isn't just about organization. It can also help you identify weaknesses in your story before you start writing. By sketching out the major plot points in advance, you can spot potential plot holes or areas where the story might drag. (Where will your readers skim or lose interest altogether?)
I can’t tell you how many times I revised my outline for this new manuscript. In fact, it started out with a completely different plot! The more I outlined, the more the story became the one I wanted to tell.
Ultimately, the outline for my new manuscript was about 10 pages. It’s part of what I call my “master document,” a bible of sorts that includes a draft of a book jacket teaser, detailed character and setting notes, timeline details, and yes, the outline. I open this master document every time I write. It helps me stay consistent with descriptions.
Using an outline – and a broader “book bible” – makes the review process more efficient, too. I use it to track character arcs, ensure that subplots are fully developed, and check that pacing is on point.
An outline is not a set-in-stone plan. In my new manuscript, I drafted the chapters following two characters and revised the outline before I started working on the third character.
As I finish the first round of edits on my latest manuscript, I'm singing the praises of outlining. The months I spent outlining are already saving me time and frustration now as I face a more efficient review process.
My advice to writers? If you're struggling with a messy first draft or feeling overwhelmed by the revision process, I encourage you to give outlining a try.