Why is it Helpful to Outline Your Book?

When it comes to the question of whether or not you should outline your book in advance, every writer has his or her own opinion on the subject, including me. In discussing the topic of outlining with authors, some highly recommend it. But others, frankly, think it’s a waste of time. I’m in favor of developing a “loose” outline of your book. I call it “loose” because that is exactly how you need to hold it, “loosely.”

The reason I think outlining is helpful is because it forces you to create direction for and an overview of your story. When you have that overview you can evaluate it for order, flow, and a variety of other elements including the story’s development.

When I planned out Escape through the Wilderness, I used a “suspense graph” to outline the book. I did this because my book was an adventure. The suspense graph helped me monitor the level of suspense throughout the story and build effectively to an intense climax. If you plan to write an adventure story, a suspense graph is a useful tool. Here’s a link to show you what one looks like: https://www.google.com/search?q=example+of+suspense+graph&es_sm=119&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=sEyFUyuAcuPyASgr4KIBA&ved=0CEoQsAQ&biw=1440&bih=726

The kind of book you’re writing in many ways informs the type of outlining tool you may want to use. Once you decide on your genre (type of story you’re going to write), do some research to determine what tools other authors in your category are using to outline their books in your particular category. Most writers are usually willing to help an aspiring author. If you run into an author that won’t reveal his or her trade secrets, move on and find someone else from which to learn.

A book I would recommend you consider purchasing is “Writing Adult Fiction For Dummies.” It’s filled with simple insights about writing fiction that I’m confident you will find very useful.

Here are a few things the book says about outlining:

1. It helps your story to stay on track.

2. It helps you spot inconsistencies before you build a story around them.

4. It reduces the risk of writing yourself into corners.

5. It aids in foreshadowing, which makes the sequence of events more believable.

Typically, most authors that outline their story do so by initially dividing their story into three parts: a beginning, middle, and end. Once you’ve completed this broad overview you then divide these three main parts into chapters that accomplish your specific goal for that section. We’ll talk more about this down the road. The key is to develop a broad guideline that will serve as a “loose” roadmap for your story. Remember, the outline works for you. It is there to serve you… you don’t serve it. If it ever starts handcuffing you or squelching your creativity or freedom, you’re tied to it and need to let go.

Once you decide on the type of book you want to write, take some time and explore various types of outlining methods to determine what might work best for you. If in the end you don’t want to outline your book, that’s your call. For now, consider and try to answer the following questions:

1. Do I think an outline will be beneficial to me? If so, do I want an extensive outline with great detail, a brief outline with just the bare minimum, or an outline somewhere




Next time we’ll look at the different types of genre available to you to tell a story.