Does It Help To Outline A Project?


Outlining (Photo credit: dmscvan)

To outline or not to outline, that is the question. I have worked on projects that I outlined first and  found that it does work best for my longer stories. I have also written without an outline and just let the story write itself. But in this stage of my writers journey I find that outlines are important.  I must be sure that my story will have the 3 main levels; surface, meaning and take away.

There are three basic types of outlines that writers can use to make sure all the important elements of the story are conveyed. The first is the “Classic” style of outlining. This particular style is probably the one we all remember from the early days of our English class in school.  We were taught that if you had a main idea you had to have information that supported it. It looked like this:

I.     Main Idea

     A.     Supporting Information

II.   Main Idea

     B.     Supporting Information

The second style of outlining is referred to as the “Scatter Method” and it really is just how it sounds. With this method you may want to have a rough outline but basically you just start writing. I have used this method many times. All you need to do is just start writing. There are no worries with this method until you are done. At that point you are taking out the bad parts and re-evaluating the good ones. You are putting the story together one piece at a time. It may be a little mixed up or scattered, but in the end you’ve put your idea to paper and simply work it from there.

The third method of  outlining is “Visual” and can be very helpful for writers who like to physically move the pieces of there story around. In other words, you type the main points or events in your story. Then you bullet each item, print the page and cut each item out. Spread the ideas out on a table and move them around, fit the pieces together like a puzzle and change them up when the story your writing isn’t working. Sounds easy enough, but I think this is the hardest way to write. If I did this my story would never get written because I would be changing the main points often.

So ultimately, creating an outline helps keep me be more focused on the plot, the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. Perhaps once I really get the hang of outlining a story I will continue to have less revisions which can result in a more polished manuscript. Do you outline? If so, what works best for you?

Happy writing!

5 comments on “Does It Help To Outline A Project?

  1. Pingback: Writing On Deadline | Tales of a Self-Published Author

  2. Pingback: A Starting Point | Write!

  3. Carl: I have read Stephen King’s book about writing. It is very helpful but some parts of his grammar section were a little confusing to me. I do have trouble with some of the technical terms and rules for all the types of sentence structure. But I am slowly making an effort to learn. Outlining for me is very helpful. Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Like you I am new at this story thing, but it is fun! I have tried and been taught all these methods you point out and similarly like the first two but agree that the visual method is not for me, unless you count cutting, copying and pasting! Sometimes that works really well and with these marvelous new technological things at our disposal saves a lot of paper! Probably takes just as long though as the editting part is integral to getting the story right. Reading for writing is just as important and Stephen King’s “On Writing : A Memoir of Craft” is a very helpful read to writing.


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