Outlines, I’ve found, are a necessary evil.
To tell the truth, I don’t particularly enjoy outlining a book. It’s a bit like hearing a friend describe the plot of a movie that you wanted to see (before she spoiled it for you, of course). With the bones of the story exposed and bare in the outline, it just loses some of its magic and doesn’t seem quite so enticing.
On the other hand, I used to charge ahead. “I don’t need an outline!” I’d tell myself. “I can totally track this tale in my head, and remember what color the character’s hair and eyes are, and how I was going to foreshadow these plot points!”
(Spoiler alert: I never remember those details. Hence the need for an outline.)
Outlines also help me gauge the length of my story. I know that a chapter is around 2,000 words, and that a book needs 25-30 chapters. Too few, and the story feels abrupt. Too many, and it drags on FOREVER. Building an outline helps me know if I need to add more action, a side plot, or if I’ve simply forgotten about some side characters along the way.
So for this next book, which has earned the very shaky temporary title of “Bad Boy of Wall Street”, I’ve constructed most of an outline. I’m still not quite sure how the end will come together yet.
But I’ve got the first three-quarters of the book outlined, and I’m itching to get writing! So I’m promising myself that I’ll end the outline before I reach the halfway point in writing the novel, and off we go!
My outline, by the way, clocks in at just over 2,500 words – a chapter in itself! For each chapter, I’ve got a little “Cliffs Notes” paragraph describing who is featured and what happens – again, like a friend describing the plot of a movie.
Now, time to face a blank page and start putting down words, watching my characters come to life!