Once upon a time, I thought outlining ruined the writing process. How are writers supposed to be creative when we have to thoroughly outline the whole story before starting?
I hit many walls when I first started writing The Soul’s Mark: FOUND because I refused to outline or take notes. I wanted to believe that I could just make magic happen without thinking it out. I truly thought an outline would ruin the story and there would be no room for my creative flare.
Boy was I wrong. Even the best writers outline, take notes, and interview characters. There is nothing worse than having your creative juices flowing and then, suddenly, everything stops because you can’t remember an eye color or you don’t have a name for a new character that you just know would be the perfect person for the scene.
After spending many nights fighting with these problems and complaining to anyone that would listen I decided to complete a full outline—it worked. Having a clear vision really made the writing process smoother. Not only did I outline the story, I interview all my characters and made up a one page biography on each of them.
I like to do my outlines and note taking in point form on cue cards. This way I can have a clear idea before I start writing but still have lots of room for the creative flare to spark up. I also like the flexibility of cue cards since you can easily shuffle the scenes around until you find the perfect place for them.
Another one of my favorite tools is bristol board. I make diagrams, family trees (including additional characters that could play a part), and post scenes in a flow chart style. Then I hang it up on the wall for easy reference. This way, when I get stuck on something like a new name all I have to do is take a peek at the family trees and voila, it’s already done and I don’t lose momentum.
Also, I think it’s important to note that I do not use the outline as the ‘be all and end all’. As I’m writing and a new idea pops up I explore it, work with it, play with it and figure out if it could play a part in the story.
Cue cards and bristol board may not work for everyone, so experiment. Try creating an excel spreadsheet with scenes or flow charts. Remember, your notes and outlines can have as much or as little information as you want. Some like to use their first draft as a jumbo outline. The more you add in the beginning the easier it will be when you actually start to write.