On Outlining

As I mentioned, I’m working on my second novel. The first one I accomplished in a style called “pantsing”. That’s when you sit and write by the seat of your pants. Hence, pantsing. My Angel of Angels was a disaster! It started in one location and the story should have gone back to the opening scene and wound up in “whoknowswheresville”. And I did it after being told by two people that I should outline the entire story. Awww, what do they know about me? I know what I’m doing. I showed them.

When the mistake was pointed out to me, and after my embarrassment waned, I just laughed at myself. Then, rewrote the book five times before I was satisfied with it.

Which brings me to my point. Outlining. If you want to streamline your novel, outline. It keeps your thoughts collected. It will save you a ton of work in the long run. Some writers will take as long as two or three months to get it right. It’s amazing what comes to mind when outlining and writing.


I’ve run across stories where authors will outline their story and then start the project. Somewhere along the line, a fantastic idea springs into their mind and they use that idea instead of what they have in the outline. Then go back and update the outline. But that’s all part of writing. Some people think it’s never ending. But it’s not. As a matter of fact, when a project is done, it’s both a relief and a disappointment. We celebrate the accomplishment and mourn the fact that we are done and won’t see those characters again. Unless, of course, there’s a sequel.

Now, if you’re sitting there wondering how one outlines, I have to break it to you gently. There is no wrong way to do that. Just start writing giving you story shape and form. But … oh yes, there’s that dreaded but, it would be a great idea to figure out who your reader target is. Are they children? Young Adults? People between twenty and forty-five? Seniors? Who do you want to read your story?

List your main characters next and give a full description of their personality. And this may constantly grow as the storyline grows. And I mean create a detailed description of how they think and act. Weaknesses and strengths. How do they look? Does a person have a mole on the corner of their mouth? A wart on their nose or hand? Do they limp? The list can go on and on. But get it down so you know what your characters can and can not do.

I keep hearing authors advise; make sure the person is relatable. I don’t think that means the reader has to like the person, they just have to understand the hows and whys of the character.

The reader will like the protagonist more than the antagonist. But the reader should at least find something to admire in the antagonist. Just a little something that gets the reader to think; okay, maybe he’s not so bad all the time.

I read a book last month where the antagonist was a hired gunman. He killed the protagonist’s girlfriend’s son. A ten-year-old boy. It turns out that the antagonist has a twelve-year-old boy himself. And I caught myself thinking; He’s not such a bad guy if he can love a child.


There were some very touching scenes between the gunman and his son and a small part of me rooted for the bad guy just a bit.

This is just a quick synopsis of outlining. There are a lot of books that explain how to do this in detail. I will advise this, though, Keep it fun, keep it simple and don’t stop honing. It pays off in the long run. Outlining done well is what makes good ideas great stories.



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