It could be fun to just jump in the car and take off cross country on a great American road trip, especially if you don’t have a deadline or budget. Who wouldn’t enjoy taking as much time and money as you want on an unplanned adventure?
The problem with that, however, is that very few of us have that freedom. We have a schedule to keep and bills to pay – we can’t afford to waste time on whatever may come. The same is true for writers. We have responsibilities – families and jobs. We can’t afford to waste time writing and re-writing (and re-writing) the same story. There are dinners to make and tea parties to enjoy. By outlining your story, you can make the best use of all of your time and get more stories written faster.
So how do you write a traditional outline? You want to start with the broadest details and work your way toward specifics. Here’s an example of what an outline might look like for The Wizard of Oz:
Very broad. Very basic. Now we fill in with details. Let’s look at the middle:
So now we have more details about what’s happening. We can still go deeper:
By adding just nine lines you can already get an idea of what’s going to happen in the story. The nice thing about an outline is that you add as many or as few details as you’d like. You can use simple, short sentences (like the ones I wrote), or long, detailed descriptions.
The more details you include, the better idea you’ll have as to your plot strengths and weaknesses. That should help you work your way through your novel faster, and the faster you finish your novel, the faster you can move on to the next one.