Nancy's Books

Sunday, January 15, 2017

To Outline or Not

The thought of outlining a manuscript is so daunting to some writers they avoid it entirely. To others, this prewriting phase is a necessity. I fall into the second category for a number of reasons.  

The main reason, since I’m not a workaholic, is the simple fact that outlining makes writing easier. Working smarter, not harder gets my vote. Before I write the first word of a story, I need to have at least a vague idea of the ending. Now, all is need is the middle. The outline works like a roadmap to get me from the beginning to the ending in the straightest path.  

My outlining is simple and basic. If I’m writing a picture book, I write the general idea for the beginning; then add the plot points and on to the ending. By spending time thinking about the story as I outline, I become more familiar with the characters, their actions and reactions, and the order in which events should happen. Does this mean that I will strictly adhere to this order? Probably not, but it does provide direction.

An outline forces me to consider various ways the information can be revealed, which is the structure or skeleton of the story. In my Whose series, I used a question and answer structure, which worked well. With On the Banks of the Amazon, I used a fiction-nonfiction parallel structure. The first paragraphs on each page were nonfiction. A fiction paragraph followed.

When I decide on the structure, I outline the fiction or nonfiction story basics. In the Whose series, I outlined the animals I would use and in what order. Once I have the structure established, I can research and add meat to the form with specific details. Figuring out the structure prior to writing helps to organize the plot logically, so there is less time spent revising.

Next week, I’ll discuss more reasons why I outline.

Call for submissions for Young Writers:

Rookie. Call for submissions! Here’s what we’d love to see from you, Rookies! (And continue to check back, as we’ll keep adding to this list.) All of these must be sent to Please include your name and age, and use the subject line specified for each post.
1. Poetry Roundup. Each month, we publish a roundup of poetry written by you. If you’d like us to consider your work for January’s roundup, please email it to us by Friday, January 14, with the subject line: Poetry Roundup.
2. Advice questions. These can be sent in any time. Life ’n’ love go to, and beauty ’n’ style go to
3. Instagram. We want to see your artwork and photography! Post it on Instagram with the hashtag #lookrookie and we will take a peek and may regram it or spotlight it in our weekly newsletter!
Submission guidelines at 

Call for submissions for Adult Writers:

Chicken Soup for the Soul. Dreams, Premonitions and the Unexplainable. (Formerly titled Dreams & Synchronicities) Sometimes magic happens in your life. You have a dream that reveals a truth or a course of action to you. You have a premonition that changes your behavior and saves you or a loved one from disaster. You meet someone at just the right time and you can’t believe the coincidence. We’re collecting stories for a second book on this topic, following our bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and Premonitions. Share your stories about the amazing things that have happened in your own life.

The deadline date for story and poem submissions was May 31, 2016 but it has been extended to JANUARY 31, 2017.

Submission guidelines at

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

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