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  • Writer's pictureThe Jazz Writer

How to Outline Your Writing

Serious writers almost always outline their writing. Period.

In the last post, I encouraged you to outline all the writing that you do, from flash fiction to complex novels. I explained the importance of creating concise outlines that can guide your work, but I didn't explain the- how. That's what I will do here.

Types of Outlines

There are many different types of Outlining that you can do for your writing:

1) Character Outling- I call these 'character maps'. This is where I meet the characters that I want to portray in my writing. I describe what they look like, what their childhood was like, what their personality is like and what they want. I describe their strengths and their weaknesses and their relationships with others in the novel. I also identify what role they play in the writing (ie., protagonist, antagonist, side-kick, etc.)

2) Plot-Outline- This is when you concentrate your outline in the area of the plot. What is going to happen to your characters in your story, and when does it happen? What is the main problem, the climax of that problem and how does it get resolved?

3) Overall Outline of Your Writing- This is the mother of all outlines. This provides you with a special guide to your book that is very detailed and concise. I include the working title of the piece, the type of work that it will be (novel, novella, short story-etc), approximate word count that you are aiming for and how I would like it produced (self-published, send out or proposals to publishers) Note that all of these things are fluid and can be changed at any point in the development of the book. I usually include an overview of the book or your first working synopsis. Then I move on to include the character maps, a description of the setting of the book, and chapter outlines which provide me with a very detailed understanding of where each chapter will start and how it will end. This helps me to keep track of all of the character arches and to ensure that every chapter ends with some sort of mystery, tension or suspense.

Getting Started

As you can probably tell, writing outlines of your work is a bit of an art. It is something that you get better at as you do it. To get you started, I have included a free overall outline that can help you get those vital details of your novel idea down on paper.

Scroll to the bottom to receive your free download!

Need Some More Support?

If you are having trouble with any part of the writing process, I am here for you! I would love to help you bring your story to life and further develop your writing skills. Just drop me a line! Otherwise, stay tuned for more of my blog posts!

Sample Novel Outline (2)
Download PDF • 98KB

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