Why do I Outline First?

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

I’m an extremely organized person by nature. I compartmentalize and live through lists. Outlining is a great way for my brain to breakdown and organize my story beats for writing. Without this I often find my stories wandering into weird places which is where I get trapped. Now with that said this is just my own process. Like in anything creative you have to find what works for you.

For most stories I have two outlines; a world building outline & a story outline. The world building outline I’ll cover in a later post, and focus on the story outline in this one. The story outline is my road map from beginning to end. It keeps me on track as I work on a piece and keeps me moving towards an end instead of onto tangents which I can easily do.

I start with identifying three key points in the story; how does it start, what’s the conflict and how does it end. If I don’t know one of them yet then I leave it blank for now, but I have a spot for it in the document to remind me. Then I start the timeline, filling in the key events that happen between these three core factors.

When creating the outline I will bounce around a lot and move things until I get the overall storyline where I feel comfortable. This can take days, weeks, or hours depending on the piece and how inspired I am that day. I review and edit it to make sure it makes sense and has a good flow to the story.

Once I have a solid outline I create my timeline, making a basic visual representation for my story. This gives me something I can keep up while I write to follow along with. The outline has my detailed thoughts and any specific scene ideas for reference, but the timeline is there to remind me to stick to the outline and my bird’s-eye view of the whole story.

Then from there is the hard part… getting it all on paper.

Happy Writing!