Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 22, 2017

To Outline or Not, Part 2

Outlines are not meant to hold a writer to preset ideas or slot ideas into a particular paragraph, and they are certainly not created to drain creativity from the tale. Most of all, they aren’t there to practice Roman numerals—I, II, III and the alphabet—a, b, c… In fact, I never use a Roman numeral in an outline. Never. My idea of an outline is to figure out the basic plot of the story. Simple, easy, and productive. That’s pretty much my goal for everyday existence, too, and I often have an outline for that, called my to-do list.

I prefer to outline before writing because a simple outline helps me organize my thoughts. Here are more reasons:
Structure. Outlining a manuscript makes it easier to write and to develop a structure in which to tell the story. The purpose of the structure is to tie the characters into the beginning and move them forward in a plot and at a particular pace toward the middle and ending. An outline allows me to pinpoint what the character wants, why he wants it, the conflicts confronting him, and how/where he challenges the obstacles.

Brainstorming tool. I can try out ideas in an outline. If they don’t work, it’s much easier to correct at this early stage than when I reach the middle of the story I’m writing.

Keeps me on path. If I know where my story is headed (ending) when I begin the project, I’m less likely to veer off path. Veering off path leads to major rewrites. This doesn’t mean that I have to limit the story to the outline. However, an outline helps me easily figure out if the new idea works into the original plan of action.

Details. It enables me to be thorough, to include the vital details in the storyline.

Next week, I’ll list more reasons why a simple, easy outline helps me be more productive.

Call for submissions for Young Writers

Young Adult Review Network (YARN) is an award-winning literary journal that publishes outstanding original short fiction, poetry and essays for young-adult readers. It seeks to discover new teen writers and publish them alongside established writers of the YA genre. Material should be appropriate for, and of particular interest to, young adult readers 14 years old and up. YARN is based in the United States and warmly welcomes international submissions.

Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers

Girls' Life accepts unsolicited manuscripts on a speculative basis only. First, send an e-mail or letter query with detailed story idea(s). No telephone solicitations, please. Please familiarize yourself with the voice and content of Girls' Life before submitting.

Submission guidelines at 

Nancy Kelly Allen has written 40+ children’s books and a cookbook, SPIRIT OF KENTUCKY: BOURBON COOKBOOK.

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