Remember in school when the teacher made you complete an outline before submitting a topic for a research paper? Outlines are helpful to some but too restricting for others. They are also used to organize your thoughts before writing. Though no one is stopping you from jumping into the deep end without one.
Bullet Point List
The most simple and effective way to outline. Any writer at any skill level can make a bullet point list. As you develop as a writer, you can make it as complicated as you need.
What should the list be about? That’s up to the individual. It could be simply a list of goals for your next article. The list is as long or as short as needed. You as the writer decide what’s best.
This is also an effective method when revising and editing longer works like novels. You can make a bullet list of what ideas work. It looks less intimating and you can focus on what needs to be worked on.
When tackling a new chapter that needs a lot of rewriting, I make a bullet point list of what I want to keep. On occasion, I use this method when starting new chapters. Though, I will admit some chapters don’t need one. Those are the ones that don’t need a lot of edits. Since using bullet lists, my writing has become more organized.
Are you more of a visual learner or visual organizer? Using flashcards may help you organize your thoughts better and keep you on track. This method I found on BookFox Blog.
You write down the information you need for your article or story on flashcards. These can be whatever you need: chapters, headings, places, characters, or facts. Then you put them in any order you want.
For example, let’s say you have two characters, Dakota and Leonard. Each person has their daily routine but only one car. You put each of their tasks on flashcards and you can move them around freely to decide how the story plays out.
The Agenda Method
This method is for writers that love extensive notetaking, have several POV’s to juggle, and need help regulating pacing in writing. It can also help you figure out and avoid plot holes in your writing. This method is more for novel planning.
You fill in the goals of the agenda as your character would. This helps keep track of several characters motivations at once. If you have two characters ending up in the same place, it can lead to outcomes not originally accounted for.
When writing novels, I do something similar to this. I do not buy agenda books. My preference is to use a separate word document and write more in a diary style. This helps capture the character’s feelings about themselves or others in certain situations.
Either way, you can be as extensive in your outline as you want. Maybe you will find that one character likes filling out a schedule while another rather have a diary. It’s your final decision at the end of the day.
Not every outlining method is the perfect fit for everyone or writing style. Every writer figures out what is best for them. No one’s creative process or outline is the same. Even if that means you don’t need to outline.
What outlining method do you use the most, if any?
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