How to Outline your Story
You want to write the next Friends. How do you think the writers did it? Do you think they just went with it then and there without a plan? Or do you think that they just went “Hmm, what do we do new this week?”
If you think their hit show was unplanned, you’re wrong. They might have tweaked it a little here and there, but what’s the real secret? Creating an outline at the beginning is the best way to write a short story. From the first moment Rachel and Ross spoke, the writers knew how it would end. Were they on a break or not? Them having a baby, falling in love again, was all planned.
Not knowing where or how to start writing is the biggest obstacle for many people. The easiest way to start penning your story is by making an outline for it as it guides you in the right direction. It not only makes it more organized for you to write but also easier. Ofcourse, if you get new ideas, you can always change your story.
This article is going to act as a small guide that can help you create a story outline.
What is an outline?
An outline is the skeleton of your book. It helps you organize your ideas and what you want to write. It acts as a pathway to write your book. You wouldn’t go to a destination without planning before, do you? Same thing when it comes to writing your book.
Here is an example of an outline:
1. Things to do in Dubai
- Burk Khalifa.
- Palm Jumeirah.
3. Victoria’s Secret.
4. Gold Souk.
Why You Need An Outline?
The outlining process is the secret formula for writing a book faster. Any author will tell you to do this if you ask them for advise. Knowing the secret formula will give you a story structure and will help write your book much faster.
Once you put all your ideas, thoughts, stories, etc., in place, writing your manuscript will be easier for you.
Remember, the outline is not the full description of your book. It’s just a rough story structure. Think of it as a jigsaw puzzle. Once you lay down all the pieces, it’s easier for you to identify to put them in place. And if something’s missing, you’ll know.
Don’t think of this outlining process as a waste of time or that you have to “take the trouble” to create one. Think of it like your next adventure or a map to make it easier to write your manuscript.
Creating an outline can help you:
Creating an outline helps you focus. How? Let’s say you want to start writing your manuscript without a outline. Nothing’s coming to you. You don’t know what to write about or how to start and just end up starting at the black computer screen. You think about how much time is getting wasted, get terrified and frustration slowly kicks in.
An outline doesn’t involve writing the story. You just have note down the key points, of what you roughly want in your story and link them all together later. Writing down the key point helps maintain your focus.
You cannot get back time. When you have an outline structure, you can save time and start writing without having to think what to write about. Although if you do come up with better ideas later, you can always change/ add them to your story.
You’ll write twice as fast when you have your story outline created. You can finish 2,000 words a day instead of 1,000. To make it easier, you can finish your novel in just a month instead of two months.
Think of all the things you can do with the extra month you saved.
The 4 methods to create an outline of your story:
- Synopsis Outline
- In-depth outline
- Snowflake Method
- Bookend Method
1. Synopsis Outline
- Involves creating a short document that is 1-2 pages long and gives you a rough idea of the novel’s structure.
- It leaves room for flexibility.
- The synopsis outline must cover: what happens in the beginning, middle, end? What are the major plots and twists? What is the climax and resolution?
2. In-depth Outline
- Is a more evolved outline.
- Is comprehensive and can take more time.
- Consists of writing chapter summaries and outlining different scenes within the chapters.
- Some in-depth outlines can be a mini-novel by itself, hitting around the 10,000-word mark.
3. Snowflake Method
- This method was created by Randy Ingermanson.
- Begins with a one sentence summary of your story.
- For example, if you take the sentence “It was snowing in Chicago,” you will have to build this sentence into a paragraph and then expand the paragraphs into four paragraphs, and so on.
- Goal: to learn more about the characters and their situation at every step. Goes on till you sketched out a comprehensive plot.
4. Bookend Method
- This outline involves plotting the start and end of the story along with the main characters – but nothing more.
- Recommended for writers who have a strong gasp of characters and the type of story they want to tell.
Steps to create an outline of your story
Craft The Theme Idea Of Your Story
Your premise is the basic idea for your story. It should not be too vague as well. If your story is “boy discovers a ghost of a girl and falls in love with her” know the details of it before you start writing it. It will be easier.
– Who is the protagonist?
– What’s the protagonist’s objective?
– What is the situation?
– What is the protagonist’s condition? How will it change and by whom will it be changed?
– Who is the opponent of the story?
– Why or what stands in the way of the protagonist to achieve the desired objective?
– What conflict will result from the protagonist’s reaction to the disaster?
– What is the logical flow of cause and effect that will allow the conflict to continue throughout the story?
If you have the answer to all these sentences, you can combine them.
Sketch Scene Ideas Roughly
Once you have a basic idea of your story, it’s time to start sketching roughly.
If you have a rough idea of how the scenes are in your head, write them down. The main aim here is to write down every idea for the story to see what works best.
If you don’t know how the scenes connect, highlight them. If there is something left unanswered in your scene, highlight it. Address the highlighted portions one by one, so the readers don’t find any loopholes. Think like a reader and ask yourself if they will expect what you wrote. If they do, write a list of alternatives they will not expect.
Character Development is the most important part of creating an outline. To write a story, you must know your characters better than themselves. You need to have a backstory about your characters before you start writing. Who are they? When are their birthdays? Who are their best friends? Why are they in this situation? What caused it? What events made them what they are?
Once you know everything about your characters, you can start penning your story. Although you might think this has no relevance to writing your story, it does.
Explore The Settings
Setting plays a vital role in your story. Don’t pick a setting just because it looks good or you know it well. Choose a setting that is relevant to your story. The setting can be decided based on your story and the characters.
Write The Complete Outline
You have the characters, rough sketches of scenes and the setting. This is where you start writing the story seriously. Start working on your story scene by scene. Number them as you go as it will be easier for you. Unlike the previous steps where you had to come up with fresh ideas, here you will work on something you already have in detail.
How you want to write your story written is up to you. You can choose to write just one sentence per scene ( Albert is jogging in the park with Anna), or choose to add more details (Albert is jogging in the park on Sunday morning with his best friend, Anna. They decided to start jogging every Sunday as they were becoming very health conscious)
Who will be narrating your character? What is your character’s goal? What obstacle will arise to obstruct that goal and create conflict? What is the outcome? How does this scene connect with the next?
Work to create a well-structured plot for your story. See that there are no gaps in the story. While writing a scene, try to preplan how it is linked to the next scene.
Filter Your Outline
Now that you have a rough outline, you will want to remove all the unwanted points. This helps weed out unnecessary points and summarises your entire outline.
Rather than wading through the bulk of notes later, why not do a little organising now?
Work On It
You can review your outline and start working on your first draft. Before writing, think of any future problems that might occur in the story and try to avoid them.
Don’t forget to share your story and get feedback for your outline. Doing this is so much easier than asking someone to read your 350-page book and review it. Your outline gives reviewers a quick way to review what’s missing.
Getting feedback beforehand is also better than getting it later and cutting chunks/chapters out.
There you go. Here are the steps that you must take to create an outline of your story. What will happen if you don’t create an outline? You will be stuck, not knowing what to write and where to start, with so many brilliant ideas mixed up in your brain.
Having an outline of your story is not necessary only for a novel. It can be useful while writing any kind of book.I assure you that if you create an outline of your story, your manuscript will be finished in no time without any trouble and will soon be on its way to be published.