Writing a book is beyond hard. Those of us in the thick of the book writing process know that.
Which means if there’s something that can make the entire process easier, we’d likely hop on it as fast as possible. Luckily, that very method exists and it goes by the intimidating name of outlining.
If you’re not sure what an outline is, you’re not alone.
When I first started out, I had no idea what this was and how it could help me but after failing miserably to get through even half of my first “book,” I knew I needed some help. I realized there are a lot of benefits to creating an outline for your book, and they’re really not difficult to understand, either.
Think of an outline as a document that lists the events of your novel by chapter. It’s instructions or blueprints for writing your book.
There are tons of different methods for making an outline that works, but as long as you end up with detailed instructions for the direction of your book from start to finish, it’ll be effective.
An outline will save you time, energy and a bunch of stress. Time is precious. Even non-writers can agree with that. However, time for writers is probably a little more important than it is for other people and that’s because writing takes a long time.
And yes, without an outline, you will have errors.
With an outline, you’ll still run into some issues here and there but in order to avoid a majority of them, you should use one. Here’s how making an outline and sticking to it will save your novel.
1. It’ll get rid of plot holes
If you’re a pantser, aka, someone who writes by the seat of their pants, you’ve probably struggled with some major plot holes in your previous works.
This is because throughout the process of writing, you might forget some minor, but important, details that can have huge impacts on the rest of your book.
You might write something in chapter three that creates an issue with something you wrote in chapter 20, which then causes problems in all the chapters between, and the reason is simply because it took you months to get there. It’s completely understandable, but also preventable.
A lot can be affected by a seemingly minor error earlier on in your book.
You may end up needing to go back and fix the following throughout the rest of your book:
- Dialogue and events related to said incident (which can add up quickly!)
- Character personalities or motives
- Actual events that unfold later in the book
- Events that are to unfold in later books
All of that means some serious rewriting and some serious time. However, an outline completely prevents that because you’re basically writing the events of the book in its entirety in about a week or two.
That means you can see any plot holes from a mile away before you’ve even started writing. The time, effort and stress you can save are well worth the extra week or two to get that outline written.
2. You can better map out the flow of emotions
One of the major elements that makes a book fantastic is the ebb and flow of emotions you put your readers through. Giving them a warm, comforting moment before ripping away any hope they had left for a happy ending is what’ll hook readers and leave them with a powerful impression of your book.
The best way to do this, and do it right, is by planning it.
When you write your book without an outline, it’ll be really difficult to “chart” those emotions. You’ll have to go off what you remember and this is often what makes a book “drag” in the middle sections.
To prevent drag and captivate your readers even more, make an outline.
Depending on your method of outlining, you can literally chart these emotions and watch the rollercoaster your readers will go on. Not only will this make them more emotionally involved with the story, it’s also that special factor that makes them share your book with others.
3. You won’t have continuity errors
Unlike plotholes, continuity errors aren’t necessarily plot-related, but they do cause problems for readers. It takes them out of the moment because the realistic aspect of your story is gone when you have too many of these.
When, earlier in the book, you have your characters walking down their gravel driveway only to have them trudge up their asphalt driveway, it’s a problem.
Your book isn’t as realistic when you have these issues and the best way to get rid of them – aside from editing – is to make an outline.
You’ll be able to keep track of the environments and rules and laws within your story and this will make your book more believable and cleaner.
4. You’ll avoid writer’s block
Ah, yes. The biggest, most annoying struggle writers face. The moment when you can’t seem to continue writing because your brain is just coming up blank. While all writers will deal with crappy writing days from time to time, not having an outline is usually the biggest cause of it.
Why? Because without an outline, you have no idea where to take your story.
You might know what happens and have a vague direction for the book, but you don’t know specifically what will get your characters from point A to B. And that means you’ll sit at your computer screen with a frustrated expression trying to figure out what needs to happen next.
All of this can be avoided with an outline. Since you have directions for what to write next, all you need to do is start writing. Sure, it might not get rid of those pesky bad writing days but at least you know where to take the story next.
If you want to avoid writer’s block, take the time to put together a comprehensive outline, first.
5. It’ll make the process of writing the book faster
Writing a book tis a long process, especially if you’re someone who writes in their spare time. It can take months, a year or even longer to complete a book from start to finish. And that’s just the writing part.
But since writing does take the longest amount of time, finding ways to make the process quicker means you’ll have a finished book in a lot shorter of a time frame.
Making an outline will definitely expedite the writing process.
When you don’t have to sit and think about what to write next or where your story is even going, you’ll just be able to write. You can open your laptop, sit down and pump out the words at a much faster rate when you have the directions right there in front of you.
6. The quality of writing will be much better
Let’s be real for a minute. What’s your main focus when writing a book if you don’t have an outline? Where the story goes. It’s not on the prose or the character development or the dialogue.
When you’re thinking about what to do next as you write, your main focus is on that, which means you’re not giving the actual writing all you’ve got. When you know exactly what’s going to happen, you can instead focus on the way you tell it.
This means you’ll have much stronger character development, more in-depth prose, and a higher quality book overall.
Forgoing an outline for writing a book is like trying to put a bookshelf together without the directions. Sure, you may be able to make something that you can use to hold books, but it won’t be nearly as stable and it won’t look half as good as it should.
When you take the time to follow the instructions, you’ll be able to focus on the quality of work you’re doing instead of just getting it put together.
Why do you use an outline when writing your book and what has it helped you overcome most as a writer?