Have you ever tried to drive to a new destination without using a map, global positioning system (GPS), or another navigation tool? It can be difficult, can’t it? Sure, you can reach your destination without a navigation tool, but the tool makes it easier to stay on course and arrive sooner. What happens if you travel a few miles off course to visit a shopping mall or visit a local landmark? You refer to the navigation tool and get back on course. And just like that, you are once again headed toward your destination.
Likewise, authors often use a navigation tool to find their way from the beginning to the end of a manuscript: the outline. It is a guide and if you get off course, it’s simple to refer to the outline to finish your project. Use an outline to:
1. Organize your ideas
I use the 3-act story structure for my novels. In my outline, I label each part in Roman numerals (I. Act 1, II. Act 2, III. Act 3). Then, I jot down words, phrases, or even a sentence in each section to prompt my memory later. The first section is about my main characters and the world in which they live. Every good novel has at least one struggle. The second part of my outline is used to detail the struggles and attempts to solve them. The last section of my outline is about the resolution of the story. This is where the protagonist learns his or her lesson.
The second level of my outline is all about the subpoints of my novel. The subpoints are the scenes and sequels coordinated with each of the acts. Again, I jot down words, phrases, or sentences that will pique my memory later. Using the outline helps me organize my thoughts in a logical order, so each scene connects with its sequel.
2. Manage your time
I use the outline to write the paragraphs of my manuscript. I save time because I expand and connect ideas together in a logical flow. If I’m not sure that a scene will work in a particular place, I can look at my outline to see where it works best.
3. Monitor your progress
Whether requested from an outside source or self-imposed, deadlines are a part of every author’s life. My outline helps me to monitor the progress of my writing. With a quick glance, I’m able to determine how much I have accomplished and what I have left to do. I can then determine if more time is needed to meet a deadline or if adjustments are needed.
Remember, an outline is a plan, and plans change. It can help an author by organizing ideas, planning, and managing time, and monitoring progress. It is a handy tool to assist with navigating through your manuscript. Whether you’re writing a short story, novella, or novel, an outline is important because it helps to move you from the beginning to the end of your novel in a logical, timely, and reliable way.
By Waletta Mason Dunn
Bestselling Author & Guest Blogger
Waletta Mason Dunn is the author of five Christian novels, More Than Sisters, Faithful Father, A Family Dilemma, Positions of Compromise and For Such a Time as This. She is an author, publisher, and speaker. Waletta was born in Bossier City, Louisiana, received her undergraduate degree from Texas College in Business Administration, and earned a graduate degree in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma.
Waletta worked in higher education while traveling with her husband before he retired from the Marine Corps after 20-years of service. The breadth of her personal and professional experiences contributes enormously to her fascinatingly inspirational writings. Waletta uses the wisdom gained in the trenches as the foundation for her writing and speaking ministry.
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