Why Outlining Produces a Better Book
Writing is like cooking: You are the chef, your words are the ingredients, and your hands are the utensils. If you’re making a new dish, you need a recipe. If you don’t have the recipe, you can’t cook. When it comes to writing, outlining is the recipe that brings everything together.
For pantsers, ideas come quickly and they write them as they come. It works out fine in the beginning, but as soon as it’s time to write the next story, the ideas seem to cease flowing. As a former pantser, I’ve been there. I had the characters and the idea, but I didn’t know how to piece them together. Outlining opened up a world of possibilities for me. It allowed me to understand my characters and create a better world for them. Not only that, but it also allowed me to stitch my story together more quickly because I had a better understanding of what I was doing. You could say it just felt “write.”
When I first thought of outlining, I’ll admit I laughed. Why should I outline? But then I realized you never know unless you try it. So I did and I never wanted to go back to pantsing ever again. At the beginning of my outlining journey, I had no idea where to start or if there was some sort of yellow brick road I had to follow. And I’m not going to lie, it was scary. But honestly there really aren’t any rules to it. All I had to do was write what I already knew and go from there. There were no confusing bubble maps or things like that. I had the freedom to plan it any way I wanted and it was a piece of cake.
To give an idea on how I outline, it’s very basic. So don’t worry about being fancy or doing anything that seems complicated. Do what feels comfortable for you. I usually try to have a cup of coffee before I begin so that my brain functions a little better, especially since I tend to write in the mornings. When I outline, I like to write on paper rather than on the computer because I feel it’s much easier to focus on than staring at a bright blank screen. Plus I can visualize my story better. I then make a bullet point of each character or world and add the information underneath. That’s it. Painless!
I typically start with the characters and build their background. Because of this, I’m able to see them as a whole person and not just some random name on a page. Outlining gives me the opportunity to try new things and different scenarios. It’s like putting a puzzle together.
In addition, outlining helps me establish a timeline where I’m able to pin-point each event in every chapter and build around that, making it easier to bind everything together, piece by piece. It’s important to have an idea of the happenings of each chapter and how they relate to each other, and as a pantser, it’s easy to only see one piece at a time rather than the whole picture. This is important because if your story doesn’t flow seamlessly, you risk losing a reader’s focus.
Overall, everyone has a different technique and not all writing styles are the same. But outlining has helped guide me in the right direction and learn more about the worlds and characters I create. (And it’s much faster to piece together.) Do what works for you and do what fits your writing needs, but know that outlining will work wonders for your manuscript.