Outlining fiction: Is it worth it?

Many writers find that the process they go through for a fictional piece, especially one of a great length, varies. The types of approaches can be broadly sectioned off into two different categories- those who outline, and those who don’t. While there are many different types of outlining, and many of these people would be quite reluctant to even call what they make outlines, the same idea goes into making them. The act of outlining, as I refer to it here, involves mapping out a story ahead of time, prior to actually beginning the formal writing of it. Below, you’ll find the pros and cons of going about this route so you can determine if it is the right path for your project.


Outline? You bet I do!

  • A wonderful way to organize ones thoughts into proper chronology of of the story. This would allow you to see the bare bones of the structure and determine where things need to be added in or taken out without having to go through massive amounts of text.
  • Accurately map out plots and subplots in an appropriate manner prior to any writing taking place. Rearrangement is not only possible, but quite easily done at this stage.
  • Have an idea of where the story is heading before penning the actual work. This can potentially save you from having to scrap large amounts of text later on when you alter parts of the story.
  • Allows you to get a better handle on the content of the story prior to getting deeply into it. This lets you to determine the writing style and tone and prevent some alterations later on in the process.
  • The more time you spend with your characters, the better you get to know them and the more fully developed they are likely to become. Outlining allows you to flesh out your characters prior to actually writing about them, giving you the opportunity of knowing them deeply when it is officially time to tell their story.
  • Outlining can help a writer determine the worthiness of a project before they invest any more time into it. After all, it is easier to walk away from an underdeveloped idea min the form of an outline, than it is to turn your back on one in a finished manuscript.



Outline? Nah, not for me.

  • The time it takes to outline can be immense. Depending on the type and depth of the outline, this can be a significant chunk of time taken in the developmental stages of the project. This time may better spent writing.
  • Often times, new ideas bring with them a sense of excitement. Writing with this enthusiasm can produce stronger pieces filled with better quality writing. Using this time to outline instead of write the story can force the writer to use up these creative juices on something that the reader will never get to enjoy.
  • Outlining distances oneself from the story in comparison to physically getting into a characters mind during actual writing time. The feel you get for your characters can’t be mimicked in list format.
  • Outlines have a funny way of being altered once the writing of the project begins. Just because something is written on a piece of paper doesn’t mean it can’t be negated later on when you are deeper into the project. There are a lot of things that won’t be realized until the writing stage is fully explored.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s