So, you’ve come up with a great plot for a new short story or a terrific idea for a character or plot development in your novel. Your first instinct may be to sit down and start typing, but you might want to think twice. By organizing your thoughts and ideas with an outline, you may find that the writing process flows more smoothly and that there is less need for tweaks and edits later. Then again, some people write more naturally without outlines. Which method is right for you?
Why Making an Outline Makes Sense
Even if you’re dealing with a relatively simple concept and aren’t going to write more than a page or two at a time, creating an outline first can help you create a more polished piece. Even the most talented writers find themselves with random ideas whirling around in their heads. Trying to turn those jumbled thoughts into a coherent, well-written piece can be daunting. When everything is laid out in black and white in an outline, you have a blueprint of what your final product will look like. The actual act of creating an outline can help you eliminate redundant or irrelevant things and even help you come up with additions that might not have otherwise occurred to you.
Avoid Fizzling Out
Whether you’re new to the writing game or have been at it for some time, you probably know the feeling of seeing your momentum drain away as you write. The flip side of the same coin is being unable to find a graceful way to wrap things up. Nothing can damage an otherwise stellar piece of writing like a weak finish, and making an outline ahead of time can help you avoid this unhappy fate.
Going with the Flow
Some writers are naturally averse to outlining. Some folks are just able to sit down and whip out top-quality work without a lot of advance planning. However, they usually have to make up for it by being even more meticulous about proofreading and editing. It’s also worth mentioning that there are varying degrees of detail when it comes to outlining a piece. You can use broad strokes by simply mapping out the main concepts, or you can create intricately detailed outlines that dictate precisely what each paragraph will say. There’s no right or wrong way to outline, so there’s no harm in trying both.
Writing from Your Heart
Writing is a creative endeavor, and many people feel that outlines stifle their creativity. It could very well be that your writing style is best suited for a more stream-of-consciousness approach, but there’s no way to know for sure without trying both methods. It may seem like going without an outline is well and good, but it could just as easily be that your writing will be ten times better when you map things out beforehand. If you don’t already make outlines before writing, give it a try for a day or two. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
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