I am not an organized writer. I rarely have a detailed plan before I start a story, and what little pre-planning I do have is almost never written down. But even as an organic writer (I resent the term ‘pantser’) I can see the advantages of having a road map while navigating the creative process. With that in mind, here are some of the benefits of outlines for all types of writers.
They Reduce Start-Overs
How many times have you been working on a story and realized that you’re going in the completely wrong direction? How often have you been forced to go back a chapter (or worse, back to the beginning) and re-write what you spent so much time creating in the first place? Having an outline potentially prevents the busywork that comes from flying by the seat of your pants while writing.
They Help with Writer’s Block
This is probably my most frequent use of outlines. I’ll be stuck part-way through my first draft with a clear picture of where I want to end up but no idea of how to get there. As I brood over my dilemma, I may get a flash of inspiration of the perfect way to make that connection. Fearful that I’ll forget, I quickly jot down a brief sequence of events to remember how to get myself out of the mess I’ve created. Even if my writing doesn’t go according to that plan, it’s usually enough to get me back into a creative groove.
They Make Backstory Easily Accessible
While a writer may benefit from composing a full, detailed description of the events leading up to a story’s beginning, it’s often more efficient and effective to have a succinct list of just the highlights. Not only does this give the writer more time to work on the manuscript itself, but a list of events is a much better reference guide than a short essay on a character’s life history when the writer is trying to remember specific details.
They’re Adaptable to the Artist
Nobody but you will ever see your outlines. They are solely for your benefit. While some authors may share their personal, perfected method for clearly identifying key details in their work, nobody will know if you don’t do it exactly the way your favorite author does it. You can use whatever method or style that compliments the way your creative mind works.
As always, a big shout-out to the fantastic members of my Fan Community:
Randall Hodgson, Matthew Paxman, Yoshiyuki Nishikawa, Wil Sisney, Jarred Walton, and Joel Stanger.
If you’d like to learn more about my Fan Community, check out the following link: