5 Reasons to Outline Your Fiction Writing

Writing is a relationship between the writer and his or her idea. And like any relationship, it’s best to perform due diligence on the situation before jumping in. With respects to fiction, due diligence typically involves a great deal of prewriting, with a strong emphasis on the outline, like writing an article, essays etc. I know that sometimes it's really hard to find an essay topic to write, but anyway... So, before grabbing a pen or keyboard and blindly embracing your muse, here are five reasons why you should outline your story first.

  1. Establish clear motives

Whether your work is character- or plot-driven, it’s a good idea for you, the writer, to know why things are happening. Outlining your story allows you the author to step back and look at the entire story at once, shedding insight into motive that can easily be obscured in long form. Whether or not you make those motives obvious to the reader is wholly up to you.

  1. Separate Major Plot from Minor Plot

Knowing your motives isn’t the same as knowing your plot. Your motives are the why, while the plot is the how. Outlining your story allows you to figure out which plot points are moving the story forward, and which ones are just interesting. Your outline lets you keep your muse in check, and keeps down the need to make hard edits later, cutting out beautiful prose that hurts your overall story.

  1. Spot plot inconsistencies before they pop up

Painting your characters into a corner does not do them any justice, neither does forcing them to act in illogical ways to get back out. Yet, these are two common plot pitfalls of making your story up as you go along. An outline that is simply a quick series of plot points can help identify these inconsistencies before they are already written into the story.

  1. Enhance Foreshadowing

It’s very easy to surprise your reader when you the writer don’t know what’s going to come next. However, it’s much more satisfying when you do know. When you outline, you can get a an intricate sense of the plot, the “ins” and “outs” ahead of time, which allow you to drop subtle hints and clues which, without an outline, you’d have to rely wholly on your subconscious for.

  1. Keep Your Story on Track

Long form fiction writers have what’s known as the Page 75 wall. When you get 75 pages into your novel, it frequently stops being “fun” to sit down and pound out your nightly word count. Having your work outlined for you allows you to leap back and forth in the story without worrying about tangling up your plot.

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