It's Halloween here in the U.S., so I write briefly today about what writers fear greatly and avoid often: the dreaded outline.
Because I use outlines regularly and get so much out of them, I always recommend them. When I taught writing, all my students had to prepare outlines before they started writing their stories.
Many resisted, and some even abandoned them when they got down to writing. No matter, the outline still served an important function: it was a map into uncharted territory, and as such, it helped my students start writing. It demystified the blank page — another horror for writers of all ages — and gave them something to pen.
I wrote an outline last night for my next attempt at National Novel Writing Month. I'm certain it will help me win for a second time because completing it has already:
- given me a starting point (even though I may change it later).
- clarified my thoughts.
- provided a logical sequence to my storyline.
- acquainted me with many characters and significant settings.
- instilled confidence in me to proceed.
- created some energy, momentum and excitement after seeing where the story might go.
My advice: Create an outline the next time you have something lengthy to write. It's not a monster, so don't run from it. (Save your energy for this evening, where ghosts, goblins, and horrid beasts might cause you to scream and sprint.)
I guess if I really wanted to scare you all I would have written about editing rough drafts or re-writing a manuscript multiple times.
To learn more about how using outlines can strengthen your writing, visit the OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University.