How to... · Writing

How to choose an outlining method!

Hey guys,

So, planning is a vital component for majority of writers, and there are very few that can write novels (or even shorts) without any planning. However, when you start looking into planning your writing project, you find yourself surrounded by a million different options and either start jumping from one to another or just giving up because, how do you choose?

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Tip: Know what you want from your outline!

If you don’t know what you want from the method you are using, you don’t know if the one you are using is worth it. When outlining can take weeks, only to find out the one you are using isn’t meeting your aims can cripple your writing goals.

Activity: Write down the aim of outlining, what do you want to get out of it!

Do you want to be able to write without really thinking about what comes next? Do you want to know every detail of the world, the characters, and the plot? Do you want to know what needs to happen in a chapter, but really the details you want to find out as you go along? Depending on what you want, depends on how you approach outlining and which method you should use.

Tip: Have a look at the options!

There are millions of outlining options, there are the big ones such as; the 3-act structure, the snowflake method, and the hero’s journey. Then there are smaller known ones, such as beat sheets, skeletal outlining, and using a previous structure and changing details.

Having a basic understanding of some of the methods will help you decide whether you need to try them all out. If you know that every little detail isn’t that important to you during the drafting stage because you know you’ll be changing them; then a plan like the snowflake method may not work because it is based on finding the little details.

Of course, if you spend forever looking at options then you will never get to the actual outlining- obviously. So don’t go looking for every option,  but as you go along and you find yourself wanting when you try out the different options, then start looking further at different options.

Tip: Don’t try outlining your big novel idea the first time you use a method!

When you start out using an outlining method, the worst thing you can do is try and outline the master piece building in your mind. But, Helen, that’s why I need an outline method!

If you choose a random outline method and as you go through you realise that you don’t know enough about the world so you struggle with the outlining; but to you it’s the method. I know this is not the truth for every person, but majority of the people see the problem as the tool when they are trying it for the first time.

So, what do you do? What I do, every time I try out a new outlining method (and yes, after y-e-a-r-s of writing, I still find and try new outlining methods) is to use it on a short works. I use a prompt to come up with a short story idea and send it through the process. This way you know that you can learn the elements of the process, without basing it all on the big project you are wanting to write. Yes, you are investing some time into the testing, but the overall cost will be minimal compared to if you put your novel idea through the process.


So, those are my tips on choosing an outlining method. Yes, I could have spent hundreds of words going through different options but there is information on the different process everywhere. But with these three tips, I hope you find choosing your method a little easier.

Helen x

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