What I’ve Learned From Outlining

I hit a major slump in writing Frigid Nights and it seemed like there was no way out. I wrote myself into a position I thought I would never rise out of. Not because I screwed up and made massive plot mistakes that were catastrophic to the foundation of the story. I haven’t found those yet. I wrote myself into a place where I wasn’t confident I had the skill or ability to get out of. I’m still not sure if I have either of those but I was able to turn on the lights while traveling down a darkened road by outlining the following chapters of the story.

I couldn’t get too detailed, otherwise, I might as well just write the chapter itself, so I kept it simple. I started with the primary action, or how I wanted to push the plot forward. Something important had to occur in each chapter or it wasn’t worth writing down. I’m sure I already have pointless chapters in there, I don’t need any more of them. I needed to crawl out of the deep hole I was in where I could barely see the light anymore. I wasn’t sure how the next couple of chapters were going to pan out, so I needed to find out. By keeping to simple main ideas of each chapter, I was able to determine where the plot was going, why it was going there, and now I had a plan. All I had left to do was to write the chapters.

By outlining, I guided myself. I had been so used to writing by the seat of my pants and hoping it all fits together but that simply wasn’t enough anymore. I needed structure, I needed torches to light the tunnel. I told myself I didn’t like outlining because then it would feel like I was writing a term paper. I truthfully didn’t want to do an outline because I was lazy and that felt like more work. I was about ten chapters into FN when I decided to do it and outlined those I had already completed and would outline at least three chapters ahead of where I was currently writing. All of the sudden, my story began to come together, it started to make sense, and now the path I had been traveling finally showed signs of having a destination.

One very awesome thing about outlines is that if you follow the one you’ve created, the plot mistakes and inconsistencies will glare out at you. Some of the minor details may fall through the cracks but that’s what editing is for anyway. At least with an outline, you’re much more likely to see a massive problem with your storyline before you have to go back and rewrite half of your book.

Outlining really helped me figure out where my book was going, especially through the tough chapters that were difficult to write because I didn’t know what was coming next so I didn’t know what I wanted to lead up to. Through daily consistency and grit, I was able to write through those tough chapters and am one step closer to finishing my first draft of Frigid Nights! 

What do you think of outlining? Do you do it every time, sometimes, or never because only nerds would do that? Let’s hear what ya got!

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