To Outline or Not to Outline. That is the question.
Okay, everyone wants to know if they should outline or not.

My personal opinion - do it. Remember, it can always change. Always.

This is how I set up my outline:
  • Figure out my plot
  • Figure out my characters
  • Create twenty-five events [could be for plot reasons (which they usually are) or could be for characterization] -- these twenty-five events are what I use for each chapter.
  • Then I decide the word count. For example, I usually strive for 65,000 words since I write YA. 65,000 words / 25 chapters = 2,600 words a chapter. This isn't concrete, but it gives me something to go by after I write each chapter. I'm really really bad about shorting stuff. I'm not one of the fluffy writers who can write 91,000 words and then cut crap out. Just not my style.
  • After I've got the events and wordcount down, I begin taking a really deep look at my characters. Usually when I picture any character for the first time they're very Mary Sue (aka perfect). So I start working on their faults and how I'm going to bring it out in the story, and how it's going to effect the story. I make notes when, where, and why it's crucial to show these weaknesses.
  • Once that's down, I start looking more at the plot. What can make the bad worse? I constantly am thinking on strains I can put on the character during a certain part in the book. There's so much fighting going on all of the time, that I've got to keep it eventful and different. Is there a time limit? Is there a major wound? Is there something that's taken away from your character's strength? Is there someone getting in the way? What makes this situation feel impossible for you character to win?

Now that you know how I outline, let's get to the argument. To outline or no?

I say do it. Most people have their idea floating around in their head. They know where they kinda want to take the story, so they begin writing and see where they're characters take them. Many of these people feel that if you write a strict outline like I do, that it's boring to write because -- hell you've already written it.

I completely disagree. If you remember the time you finished your first book, you can almost feel the same buzzing excitement flowing through your body. You finished. Can you believe it? It's DONE! Six months later after you've beaten yourself up over editing, querying, and synopisissomething -- you look back on your work and see it's disastrous. It isn't good enough because you have so much fluff and so much crap that has basically not enough to do with the story. At least, that was my experience. I wasn't a naturally good writer. Every bit that I've learned, I've learned the hard way. And I'll tell you the biggest stepping stone between my elementary work and what I'm doing now is outlining. End of story.

With that being said, it isn't for everyone. If you haven't tried it, try it. Don't let it stress you because I promise you, your outline will change here and there. Your characters will take over it and make things go their way. It's okay. I look at the outline like I look at the bible: it's a damn good guide to how to live life. It isn't a strict rule book saying you HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY. It's just a nice guide.

So try it out. Don't stress. Make it fun. And if you get stuck, let me know. Throw a comment down, give me an email (, or go here for a bit of help.
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