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 👀 , 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.

“When writing a novel, do you add a hook near the beginning of the book after the manuscript is completed or when you start writing it?”

Tell the story the way it tells you…

Sometimes your hook may come right at the beginning, other times, it may come when you’re done with the manuscript… possibly even after you’ve submitted it.

I think when it comes to the technicalities of how to write a hook, different authors have different preferences.

A hook, for those unaware, is basically a sentence (or a group of sentences) that draws your readers in to reading your work.

Based on this, I personally prefer to begin with a captivating sentence and/or add my hook within the first two paragraphs.

This way, a promise is made right at the beginning and the anticipation of the promise fulfilled keeps the readers engaged.

Three ways you can do this:

a). Create curiosity.
Let your first sentence/ paragraph make readers curious. Intrigue them. Your first line should generate questions that lead them to read your book/story for the answers to.

b). Connect emotionally.

If your words can stir up feelings in your readers, more often than not, they will stay connected and stick with the story till the end.

c). Introduce a character.

I’m a sucker for this personally. I read a book beginning with a perculiar character and I can’t help but read on to discover more about them… two of my personal favourites are:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis

And

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.”

A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab

There are in fact a number of other ways to write a great first sentence hook but I think it best for each author to practice and find what works best for them… I also think it’s important not to neglect the story and what it wants to do… let the story tell you.

So, to answer the question, sometimes my story is born from a sentence, such as:

“I died a thousand times that day.”
Jenée, Xyvah Okoye & Chiedozie Omeje

Other times, I’ve gone half way through my manuscript before returning to rewrite the first paragraph.

To be honest 🙈 there was a case where I finished the manuscript completely and ended up getting my hook in on my second edit of it.

🤷🏽‍♀️ it all depends on what works for you. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do it right the first time. It will come when it’s ready… let the story tell you.