In Defense of Outlining Your Novel

With two novels and countless articles under my belt, I feel like I can offer some insight to the young, bright-eyed novelists coming of age. Being a novelist is hard work, no matter how skilled you are. Not only do you have to write a book, but you have to create a brand for yourself and market your book. It feels that nowadays, being a novelist is 50 percent being a writer and 50 percent being a marketing guru.

Thanks to this current inconvenience, many writers (myself included) will make mistakes in their writing that will take away from the actual story.  I’m not talking about grammar and spelling, although that is also important. I’m talking about plot holes so big you can drive a semi-truck through them and dialogue that makes people feel like robots.  If you can avoid these mistakes, you’re already one peg higher than most writers starting out.

Most of these mistakes could be avoided if you just TAKE THE TIME TO OUTLINE YOUR NOVEL.

betty and veron

So many writers are so eager just to start writing based off a sudden idea, they tend to forget to actually plan out their idea.

Take me, for example. When I started to write Night of Suburbia, I started writing based off one scene I had thought of. I continued to do this, which led to me – halfway through the novel – with absolutely no idea what to do.

I didn’t know how to make the conflict get resolved, where the ending was going to take place or even who the killer was! With 25,000 words already written, I couldn’t just trash it and start over. I just had to wade through my entire manuscript, editing and adding scenes, until I knew what to do. This problem could easily have been avoided if I just wrote a rough plan for my novel.

A plan can be as simple as a list of scenes in chronological order with little side notes about conflict and climax.  Or it can be as elaborate as writing character profiles, charting out scenes and doing research on topics portrayed in your novel.

Below I’ve listed some links on the more elaborate planning ideas, which can help you cinch your novel before you start:

Character Profiles

Plotting Sheets

Outlining Help

Trust me, although you will want to just start writing without outlining, you will much rather outline than stress out when you have to go back and fix all the plot holes and such in your book. It’s not fun…

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About the Author

Sam McCullough
Sam McCullough is a self-published writer living in the Seattle area.