Outlining

Welcome to 2022.

Since it’s a new year, I figured it’s only fitting to start off the year with the dreaded O word.

If you’re a writer, you might have shipped yourself into one of two categories: plotter or pantser. And for some, plotting, outlining, structuring their work is a way of life. But for some others, they prefer to discover the story as they go along.

No way of doing things is right or wrong. There’s just what works and what doesn’t.

So why are we talking about outlining?

Great question!

The short answer is… Outlining helps.

Whether you’re a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid, outlining your work really does make the writing process easier.

An outline doesn’t have to be detailed. It can be as loose as you want. You can have a 40 page outline of your novel, or just have bullet points. You could create a chapter by chapter summary, or just a paragraph summary for the whole darn thing. The main point is, an outline gives some form of direction. It provides boundaries, and a goal to shoot for.

Think of it as a journey. You may not have decided on the route you’ll be taking when you start out, but you at least need to know where you’re going.

An outline provides that for you.

Now, simply because this post wouldn’t feel complete without practical, pointed tips đź‘€ , here are three simple ways to outline your work:

1. Bullet point the major stuff.

We’re talking plot points, ideas, places, events. Anything that most definitely has to happen should be on that list. Remember, keep it as loose or as detailed as is comfortable for you. Do this for the manuscript as a whole. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you could try doing it for each chapter as you write it.

2. Write a one-page summary.

Another way to outline is to write a 200 to 500 word summary of what you’re working on. This not only shows you where you’re going, it also shows you how much you actually know about what you’re working on… And how much more research you might need to do.

If you can gather the general gist of things concisely onto one page, then each sentence could become a chapter or a whole section in your book (though I wouldn’t advise the latter), and pantsers could still discovery write the details to their hearts content without dealing with so many episodes of writer’s block or losing interest in the story because they just can’t figure out exactly where it’s going.

3. Use a mind map.

You could do this by hand, or you could use a software like Scrivener that allows you to arrange and rearrange your thoughts. I personally prefer to do these things by hand. I use an A2 sketchpad and I’m constantly sticking and unsticking things and moving things about.

This method allows you to get all your thoughts down in one place and then pick them back up as you write. There’s no real structure to what goes where, you just know all of it goes in the story at some point or another,

And in parting, remember that writing tips are just that: tips. There are no real rules, there’s just what works and what doesn’t.


If you know of any other tips of tricks for outlining, share them in the comments below. And if you enjoyed this post, remember to like and share it with someone else who might benefit also.

Get feedback!

It is commonplace for new writers to be protective of their work. And there’s nothing wrong with that… except that it robs a writer of opportunities to improve their craft and story.

Feedback from peers and mentors is invaluable, especially in the early stages of your writing career.

When you open your work up to others you trust and admire, others with knowledge and experience in the craft, you put their expertise to work for you. Now, that’s priceless!

Some simple ways to get feedback include:

a. finding a mentor

b. finding a critique partner (or partners)

c. joining a writing group

d. sharing free content on your blog or social media (though I would only recommend this to those with a thick hide).

The honest truth is, getting feedback can be brutal sometimes… but the key is to pick out the useful, constructive advice, and run with it. In the end, it’s all about your success.

Character Entrance 5: Setting

This method of character intro is not so much about the character as it is about the setting. However, by dwelling on the setting, you shade the sketch of the character in the reader’s mind. The fascinating result you will accomplish through this intentional shading is that your character shines with a sense of familiarity later when he takes over as the subject of your story.


In a nutshell, this method does not explore the character’s physical description or thoughts or much of his actions. Yet, by focussing on the setting (place and time), your reader could reasonably guess the character’s appearance and personality. The exciting thing about this method is that it’s satisfying when readers discover they were right about who they thought your character was or would become.


The fantastic beauty of this character intro method lies in its ability to multitask between setting description and character intro. This is an excellent example of killing two birds with one stone.


What do you think about this writing key? Please tell us in the comments. Remember to keep a date with us next Monday for more keys to improve your storytelling skill.

Character Entrance

It is often the case for storytellers to drop a character into the story without considering the significance of such an introduction. As long as the story moves ahead, they believe the character works. 

But the experience is not always the same for the reader. Much like real-life, first impressions matter about story characters. How the reader perceives your characters depends on your intentional choices on what to reveal or withhold about them at the point of their entry into the story. 

Beginning from this key, we will explore 5 ways you can employ to effectively introduce a character. 

Character Entrance 1: Description

A straightforward Description is the most logical way to introduce a character. It is logical because your reader does not know the new guy you call John. And since books are not videos, you may need to tell/show your reader at the point of John’s entrance that, unlike most humans, John has 8 limbs. Description goes beyond the name to show the reader a bit of your characters’ appearance or what it seems like. In our example of John, you may not say it, but your reader already knows that John is likely not human despite having a human name.

HOWEVER! HOWEVER!!

The amount of Description you do at a character’s point of entry into the story should depend on what you hope to achieve. For example, if your interest is to inspire curiosity about John, you can end the Description at the point you mentioned 8 limbs. The incomplete information will leave your reader wondering what kind of animal John must be. 

If you’re particularly a mischievous writer, you can tell your reader when next they meet John in the story that he is an accident patient who, for some weird reason, uses two pairs of crutches. And John is human again.

Book Example

You will find a good application of Character Entrance by Description in Dan Brown’s introduction of Rachel Sexton in his novel, Deception Point

The woman was attractive, in her mid-thirties, wearing gray, pleated flannel pants, conservative flats, and an ivory Laura Ashley blouse. Her posture was straight—chin raised ever so slightly—not arrogant, just strong. The woman’s hair was light brown and fashioned in Washington’s most popular style—the “anchorwoman”—a lush feathering, curled under at the shoulders… long enough to be sexy, but short enough to remind you she was probably smarter than you.

Note that while Description may be a logical way to introduce a character, it does not necessarily make it the best. The best way to introduce a character depends on how you want to present the character to your reader. Keep a date with us next Monday for the creative writing key on Character Entrance 2.

Plan And Plan Again

Don’t just be a writer who only practices writing. Pick a project and work on it. A writing project, like a book, is good but shouldn’t end whenever it ends. Projects have time frame. Give yourself time when you should be done.

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Get The Ink Bleeding

As simple as this writing key reads, it is where most aspiring writers like you face a great challenge.  You stare at the blank paper or screen before you and ask, what exactly do I write first?

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Study The Craft

There is a basic structure for every genre of creative writing. It is upon this basic structure that the writer’s individual uniqueness comes in as worthy appendages. Without a basic structure or frame, unique appendages are unworthy by default.

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On Beginning…

In this key, our aim is to help you find what kind of writing will best express whatever it is you want to write, especially as it relates to your why for writing.

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Where Should You Write?

Imagine a comfortable chair, a table of exactly the right height, a computer and a mug of hot coffee or a bottle of booze. Then imagine you cannot afford any of them.

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When Should You Write?

Your natural proclivity is to desire comfort. You don’t want to do anything until the stars have aligned and the booming voice of the universe says, “It’s time to write, my dear child.” But the question is, when was the last time you heard that voice? Have you even ever?

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