Outlining Your Story Helps You Write Better

Last year, I’d managed to finish two novellas without a particular process or schedule and since then I have been struggling with planning and completing stories. Every time I’d sit down and try to write complete mayhem broke out. In between normal life and daily duties, I could not utilize whatever spare time I had to write something of significance. I’m still struggling but I took time out to really study the writing process before jumping back into writing. So far, it’s been effective. I’m happy for myself, that I’ve recently started writing again, something that I just need to do.

I was under the impression that to be an author you had to be beyond intelligent and just know everything, that one can just sit down and write a perfect novel in one shot. When I started experiencing writer’s block despite knowing where I wanted my stories to go I realized that I needed to halt and revamp the way I approached writing. Dialogues are easy for me as I’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter since my tween days but it’s the details, descriptions and making my characters emote that I have the most trouble with. As my research progressed I learned that extensive research and planning goes into a story. At least for me, it was a new and different approach and one I decided to try out.

I did plan before but there were always holes in my story. I had the core idea, knew who my characters were and what was going to happen but it’s the how that hindered my progress. After trying to outline my story, I realized why I should’ve done this a long time ago. I consider myself very novice at writing but it’s something I love and I want to pursue so I had to get it right. I am still trying to get it right. So instead of just writing based on small notes I’ve made, I outlined an entire story from beginning to end and it felt almost as satisfying as completing a book. Bear in mind this is just the beginning. After completing a first draft, there’s lots of edits, formatting and modifying that needs to be done but I’ll elaborate on that more in another post.

Here’s how I outlined the story that I’m currently working on…

  1. OneNote. I came across this program, that’s free on all platforms by the way, called OneNote. It doesn’t save like a word document, it syncs and you’ll be able to access your work on multiple devices. Sometimes a thought might hit you and all you have is your phone on hand so I find this very useful if I quickly need to make a note or addition to anything. (I will create an entire post how I use OneNote for outlining and writing with pictures.)
  2. Writing Chapter Summaries. I used to write one entire synopsis and a few details here and there about scenes and dialogues that I already know I want in my story. I’ve started writing one liners about each chapter and it didn’t start in order. By the time I kept adding paragraphs to the one liners, I noticed my story tying together to make sense. (Note: If at this point your story sounds chaotic, worry not. It will tie together. Remember that this is just the beginning of it and your work will always be tweaked as fast as your ideas come along.) This is one thing I like about chapter summaries, if you feel like adding something different, it gives you room to work. Unlike just writing your book and half way through you realize that you need to redo the entire thing. So outlining your sub plots save you all of that. Once you’re satisfied with the outline, you can then begin to write.
  3. Character Profiles. Previously I would make a brief description of my characters such as dark hair, green eyes, tall, short…whatever their job was, who their family was. Sometimes I’d add new characters as I wrote and sometimes I’d want to take out a character that wasn’t making sense anymore but I couldn’t. So planning out my characters well and outlining the entire story, helps me know from the beginning which characters should be omitted as well as if I need to add a character somewhere down the line. I also ran into problems when I called my characters doctor or accountant and in the middle of the story I had to research details of their job descriptions. My advice is to research these details and any information about their jobs…note their likes, dislikes, behavior, families previous to writing. It has helped me in a big way so far.
  4. General Research. As much as us fiction writers make up a lot of details we still need extensive knowledge on how things in our stories function. For example a hospital…if a lot of our story is set in a hospital revolving around the people that work there, we’d have to know what goes there, who is in charge, their responsibilities, what equipment is placed in what department…things like that. You get the idea.
  5. Don’t leave holes. One of my biggest mistakes when planning a story, I’d leave out a lot of details thinking I’d polish it during the editing process. This causes more chaos that you’d think. Plan your scenes, and elaborate as much as you can before even beginning to write. It helps you write with a flow as you have noted exactly what you want to convey in that chapter.
  6. Sketch your Plot and Climax well. All stories have some sort of issue that needs to be dealt with which can either break or make your story. Make sure it’s a convincing and sensible one as well as your climax. I’ve read many books where the entire build up was brilliant only to have a rushed ending with an unconvincing plot. I’ve also written stories like this, sadly. So that’s why I feel it’s important to pay attention to your plots and sub plots along with the climax.

Thanks for reading! xo Coffee Doll

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