To most writers, outlining is the worst stage in the process. It’s a long, difficult process that a lot of writers like to skip. Most times, however, this is a horrible idea.
In the words of Jenna Moreci, when you skip the outlining phase just because it’s difficult, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. The outlining phase takes all the frustration and writer’s block from the drafting phase and siphons it into one, condensed process.
So if you can’t skip the outlining stage without hurting yourself in the drafting stage, how do you get through it?
Figure out the climax first
This is another tip straight from Jenna Moreci’s YouTube channel that helps me out every time I get writer’s block during outlining ((which is frequent)).
You don’t need to outline the climax before everything else, but if you have a clear idea in mind, it’ll be a lot easier to figure out everything in between.
Keep your plots listed and explained nearby
I do this EVERY time I outline anything. This not only reminds you of subplots you aren’t as interested in as others, but also helps you keep in mind what needs to be done and what problems are still present.
Try a new style when blocked
My outlines are really detailed, and I write out almost every conversation in the outline as well. So when I was having trouble outlining whatever, I opened a new doc. and listed every scene that needed to happen until the epilogue.
I’ll probably think of more scenes as I outline, but I still have a very great skeleton that’ll keep me from getting writer’s block the rest of the way through.
Get creative with it! And if all else fails, just look at the internet.
This goes hand in hand with step 1. When you’re stuck, outline a scene later on in the book that you’ve already thought of, and then figure out all the steps you need to get back to where you were.
I like to joke that comprehensive outlines are the outline to my outline. Basically, a comprehensive outline is a list of key events that happen in your novel. This is helpful for both step 1. and 4.
What’s the worst thing that can happen right now?
Every time you’re stuck, ask yourself this question. Keep in mind that progress on a plot can both mean making the problem better or making it worse, and getting stuck, at least to me, usually happens sometime during the middle. By making the problem worse, you’re forwarding the story and raising the stakes.
Listen to music that reminds you of your book(s) or characters.
When I was re-outlining The Finest Trick, I was at a loss on how Tanner was supposed to react to a certain event towards the end of the story. In the first draft, he’d acted really melodramatic and I didn’t know how to remedy that.
When I listened to the song I based Tanner off of, I immediately realized what I had to do, and it’s worked out wonderfully.
I said it in the beginning: Outlining is hard. Really. Fucking. Hard. Don’t try to do it in one sitting. You’ll drive yourself crazy.
Have fun with it
Yeah, I know, cliche as shit, but it’s true. You don’t need to be all serious throughout it. Feel free to be silly and write things that only make sense to you. The outline is only for you, after all.
Do whatever works for yourself specifically
My outline for The Finest Trick was over two hundred pages. Granted, it was way too convoluted the first couple chapters, and I’ve grown a lot since I outlined TFT. Still, my outline for whatever is currently almost 80 pages, and I’m only about half way through, if even.
I know some writers who’s outline is less than ten pages. That’s insane.
But to them, it’s works perfectly.