8 Reasons You Should Outline

Every writer’s process is different. Some drink, some do yoga. Some eat a giant bag of chips while typing away, and some refuse to eat while they’re working. Some need a quiet place without distraction, and some can type out a giant tome in a crowded coffee shop.

And some plan, and some don’t.

I’ve written both ways; sometimes I outline a story to death and sometimes I just sit in front of the computer and let my brain run wild. This post is the first of a two-parter. Today, I’ll do the pros of outlining, and tomorrow the pros of not.

I’ll tell you ahead of time that I actually prefer not outlining, but I can see the benefits of doing so, and I will do it for certain stories.

Read on for the top reasons you should outline.

1. The most obvious is you know ahead of time where the story is going. There’s no panic in the middle because you don’t remember what’s going on. There’s no having to remember the next plot point you thought of right before you fell asleep (or sometimes, in my case, what I dreamed up). It’s relatively smooth sailing.

2. Writer’s block is nonexistent. Well, maybe not completely, but it helps to know what you’re planning on writing when you sit down each morning (afternoon/evening/four in the morning). You just glance at your outline and plug away. Which could also help you write faster. No stopping to wonder what to do with a scene after you’ve written yourself into a corner. On a similar note…

3. Motivation. If you already have a plan, it’s easier to sit down everyday and write.

4. Your characters are under control and without surprises. For you anyway. Hopefully they still throw some gotchas at the reader.

5. It’s easier to foreshadow. You already know what’s going to happen at the end, so you can tease the reader as you go along. No need to backtrack and try to stuff in foreshadowing where it didn’t exist before.

6. Researching is easier. You get it out of the way in the beginning and don’t run into a situation down the road that causes you to spend days in the library before you can write another word.

7. Story structure is solid the first time. No need to rearrange after you’ve finished.

8. Pacing is more natural. It’s easier to stick to your story line which means fewer ill-placed tangents and slow spots. Keep the story moving along!

So there you have it. The benefits of outlining. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

So what do you think? Do you outline?

Come back tomorrow for a look at writing without an outline!

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