I'm a great believer in outlines. — Tom Wolfe
The Art Of The Outline
I outline every book. Sometimes I write the outline before tackling the first draft. Sometimes I write the outline before tackling the revision. Sometimes I do both. I’ve had a number of writers tell me that they wished they could outline; I think they assume that an outline makes the work go more quickly. But what it really does is make the work go more smoothly. Outlines aren’t shortcuts to writing more quickly. They’re an editing tool that helps writers focus on the essentials in their story and eliminate dropped subplots, unimportant digressions, and pointless characters.
Why We Outline
One of the fundamental pieces of writing wisdom is to “kill your darlings”. These are our charming characters that don’t really belong in a story, or the needless scenes that we’re desperate to keep because of those three lines of funny dialog, or that elegant description that slows down the pacing. One of the best ways to force yourself to admit that something is a darling is to strip your story to the essentials. And, for that, you have an outline. I created Bookflow with advanced outlining functions and scene descriptions to encourage writers to take this step, whether it’s before they write their scene or after. If you prefer to write a draft of your manuscript first, that’s fine, but remember your outline when it’s time to revise. If you despise facing the blank page in a first draft (as I do), you can use the outline to craft the scenes you need. (Just be sure to give yourself ample time. It does not take me a day or two to write an outline. It takes weeks, if not months. I never try to brainstorm more than three scenes a day—so my total output on these days is three paragraphs of writing. But those three paragraphs are so dense that, whenever I try to do more, I exhaust myself and get sloppy.)
Special Workshop On Outlining
If you’re interested in learning more about outlining, I am offering a special workshop on January 31 from 4-5:30 EST: Outline Your Way Through. Outlines are a fantastic tool for brainstorming and/or revising narratives, and this workshop will reveal the techniques that I’ve been using and refining for the past fifteen years. It is also going to be hilarious and FUN, and will involve talking, writing, listmaking, and very simple drawing. Everyone will leave with a solid understanding of when, how, and why to outline and a booklet to help you develop your own.
And A Special Offer
I am giving my Email subscribers something special. If you register for my class on outlining by January 1, I will meet with you for a 20-minute one-on-one consultation to discuss any concerns or questions you have about your story and how you can use Bookflow’s features to reach your goals. (Meetings to be held within 90 days of completion of the workshop.) I am ONLY giving this offer to my Email subscribers. Just Email firstname.lastname@example.org with Email List Offer in the headline once you have signed up for the workshop.
I rarely teach a class on how to outline, and I think we’re going to have a blast! Here is a link to sign up.
You’ll need to click on Outline Your Way Through in the drop-down menu.
Also, take a look at the whole speaker series. There are discounted bundles for signing up for more than one talk, so definitely check out the other offerings—especially the ones from my friends Heather Demetrios, Sarah Cassel, and Hannah Barnaby!