Outlining Your Book (and why I wish I did it)

There are two types of writers: outliners and pantsers. I’m going to share my outlining process. First, let me clarify what a pantser is.

Someone explained to me that a pantser is someone who “writes by the seat of their pants.” A pantser writes without an end goal to their story in mind. Their story isn’t mapped out before they start writing. The story unfolds as the author writes it!

That is what I did with Finding Doom. I wrote it as a pantser. When I sat down to start writing it, I had no idea what was going to happen in the end or how I was going to get there.

My biggest problem with writing as a pantser was time and repetition. It took me a year to write my first draft. Although that’s not a bad thing, it took me a long time because I was putting my thoughts together as I wrote. I didn’t know what was going to happen until it did, so it took longer actually to reach the end. The other main difficulty I had was repetition, though I didn’t know it until I finished my first draft. I would forget the characters discovered a specific clue, so they rediscovered the whole thing again! (which is why we edit!)

Now I always use an outline. Every writer outlines differently. I’m going to share my process.

Before I started writing the second book for the T.S.O., (which is just now entering the editing process) I created what I call my general outline.

Here’s what it looks like:

Once upon a time: …

Everyday: …

Until one day: …

Because of that: …

Because of that: …

Because of that: …

Until Finally: …

Ever since then: …

I fill this in to give me an idea of what will happen in the story. I learned this trick at a homeschooling screenwriting class. For the second book of the T.S.O. I only followed my general outline, but I was still struggling with the small scenes in between the essential and major plot points.

A little while later I discovered the magic of index cards!

After my general outline, I come up with my scenes, each scene written on a different index card. It includes as much detail as I have. Sometimes I will add bits of dialogue. After I have all my scenes, I lay them out in order. Then I decide where my chapter breaks will be. For a different story that is still in the writing process (not a part of the T.S.O.) I took those scene cards and rewrote them again in more detail in a notebook, including chapter breaks.

Here’s an example of a scene card:

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Important note! My first draft never ends up how I planned in the outline! Even as I write, I add things and get rid of things. The chapter endings always move.

With my extended outline, it takes a lot less time to write the actual book! For me, it takes about a month if I work consistently to complete my outline. But it cuts my writing time in half and prepares me for when I sit down to write. I wish I figured this out before I wrote Finding Doom. It would have made my writing process a lot faster! But with every story you write, your writing improves as well as your system for story building. 

It’s all part of the writing process!

Comment below if you have any questions!

-R.E. Klinzing

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