There are two kinds of writers. The planners and the fly by the seat of their pants writers. The one can’t quite understand the other. One must plot and plan. One can’t take time to scheme. They let the creativity flow and don’t worry about the behind the scenes work.
Well, I’m a planner. I spend countless hours fleshing out the characters. What is their story before the story? I have an outline for everything. One for places they live in or travel to. One for minute plot description. One for character sketches.
Being a plotter makes my life so much easier. Did I forget where my character stores her keys? Go to the ‘Places’ outline. Was one of my minor characters raised in a rural or urban environment? Go to the ‘Character’ outline. Did I forget to mention an important detail about the character’s past? Go to the ‘Plot’ outline.
For the ‘seat of your pants’ writers, your reading this with scorn. You’re wondering where my creativity even had a chance to breath with all these plans. Couldn’t I worry about all that later? And, some of you planners may be new at outlining and don’t quite know what the best set up is to make it an efficient tool for your work.
An outline benefits both kind of writers. With just a tiny bit of planning, you too can set up the dreaded outline to strengthen your writing. Here’s some quick and easy steps to help you do minimal organizing to keep the details in order:
- Set up a separate folder for each outline you’re making.
- If it’s beyond you to plot first, put it in the outline as you go.
- Make each chapter a new bullet and give it a page number to make for easy searching in the future.
- Put a timeline with each chapter and page number. This helps you map out time spans.
- Only type the most important details or things you know you’ll need to look back at later.
- Highlight sections in the outline where you know you need to go back and fill in blanks or give info that you haven’t had a chance to finish researching.
- Mark the day you started the manuscript and what the theme is. You’ll be wondering about it years later.
As much work as it seems to be, in the end you’ll be so glad you did it. It’ll minimize mistakes and help you find information faster when you’re editing or trying to remember exactly how a specific scene happened. And, once you get used to doing it, you’ll find you can’t live without it.