Writing Tips, Part III: Outlines and Structures

Now that I finished my first manuscript, I figured it would be better to just keep on writing. I cannot look at the text yet as if I’ve never seen it before; therefore, I cannot start the editing process. In fact, editing now would hinder my ability to keep up the pace. Once I’ve written enough, I’ll return to where I once started and polish it. However, that moment is not here yet. For now, I’m simply going to outline my second manuscript. For others struggling with the same – which I personally find rather hard – here are a few tips.

One: start out with brainstorming. This probably seems like a logical step, but you’ll need it. Write down whatever comes to mind. See which ideas you prefer. Some might work well together, while others don’t. Choose with a basic idea and stick with it. Once you’ve done so, do not go back to creating new ideas – no matter how tempting it is. If anything else seems interesting, write it down – then forget about it.

Two: now that you have a basic idea, come up with the ending. This might seem like a strange leap in thought, but knowing the ending definitely helps in the process of fleshing out the story. The more detailed it is, the clearer the path becomes that needs to be taken in order to get there.

Three: which characters, changes in attitude, attributes and scenes do you need to get to the ending? Let the story revolve around – that does not sound like the right word, though – obtaining those essential elements. That way, every step and every action will bring the story closer towards the ending and there will be no unnecessary elements to it.

Four: this is where the actually outlining begins. Write down everything you know so far and try to create a structure for the story in which every single elements fits. You could do this by writing a synopsis or by creating a chapter-by-chapter outline, whatever works better. Make sure not to include anything but short descriptions of the scenes.

Five: by now, you should know your story’s main points and main scenes. This is the time to start writing, to bring your world and its characters alive. Following the steps, it should not be hard to write down the entire story from the beginning to the ending. After all, you know what needs to happen. However, this is definitely the fun part. Outlining a story before writing it does not take the creativity out of the process, because there is more than enough left to be creative with. Make the characters speak. Make the characters act. Although you know what is going to happen, the way in which it is going to happen is not set. Play with that.

This might seem a boring technique, but many beginning writers get stuck because they do not want to create an outline; they just want to start writing. However, if you have no idea where your story line is going to take you, chances are you are lacking a plot. A manuscript without a plot can never be called a book – unless you are a famous, established writer, which I am not.

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