3 Big Misconceptions About Novel Outlines That Every Writer Needs to Know

3 Big Misconceptions About Novel Outlines That Every Writer Needs to Know

3 Big Misconceptions About Novel Outlines That Every Writer Needs to Know
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3 Big Misconceptions About Novel Outlines That Every Writer Needs to Know


Do you avoid creating novel outlines because you don’t think they will be helpful to your work? Novel outlines can be extremely helpful to writers. But many writers avoid creating them. They think the cons outweigh the pros.


But here are three big misconceptions about novel outlines that writers need to know.


False Belief #1: Outlines are written in stone.

Often, writers avoid creating outlines because they think they’ll be tied to what’s written on the outlines. That they won’t be able to stray from them and write what really comes out. But that’s not necessarily true.


The main purpose of a novel outline is to outline the story. That’s it. If a new twist pops up that would have your readers at the edge of their seats, you’re free to make the change.


There is so much that goes into a novel that an outline isn’t going to cover everything. By default, there’s wiggle room for the little details, and that allows writers to put their skills and creativity to good use.


False Belief #2: Outlines are time consuming.

Outlines aren’t supposed to be time consuming. And they’re just a part of a writer’s job. When you spend time creating an outline, you’re spending time brainstorming for your story, which is what your story needs.


So, in the grand scheme of things, an outline is extremely helpful, because not only does it allow you to brainstorm, but it also gives you a sense of direction for when you get to the lull in the writing. If you’re lucky, an outline of the basic plot structure will keep you writing to the end.


False Belief #3: Outlines interfere with creativity and stop the flow of writing.

Here is another big belief that keeps writers from creating outlines. Creativity can be a touchy subject for writers, especially when they feel like their well of good ideas is running dry. We want the freedom to explore the story and see where it takes us because we think that freedom with a story is allowing our creativity to flow.


But sometimes, we really just need direction to keep us on track. When the writing flows, our creativity flows also. So, it’s a win-win.


On top of that, creating a novel outline allows a writer to have brainstorming sessions, to work out the details of the plot and characters, and to know which (and where) details need to be weaved into the story. It saves us the trouble of having to make the changes later on during the revision phase.


Novel outlines don’t have to be detailed, scene by scene. They can simply detail the basic plot structure, the character goals and motivations, and the internal and external conflict. Knowing those details won’t interfere with creativity. They’ll simply give us a sense of direction so we can keep the story moving to the last page.

Jody Calkins
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