Organization & Outlines

Every writer approaches organizing their writing differently, however every successful writer needs to first organize it. One of the problems I’ve seen with submissions is that oftentimes the work – while interesting and potentially good – needs explanations made and needs to have the pacing and flow worked on.

The best story can become a jumbled and confusing if there is no clear organization and a writer often can become lost in their own writing if they don’t have a strict structure to work in. It’s like writing a long paper in school – without an outline it’s easy to get confused. With my colloquium in college I had finished the paper without an outline and then when I went back and read it… I nearly cried. 30 pages of nonsense.

While not all writers use a formal “outline”, one should at least consider some form of organization. For me, the way I do it is I come up with the plot and write that down (long-hand, I always do this kind of thing long hand first, for some reason). Once the plot has been worked out, I set myself up an outline.

Each major event I need to hit gets its own heading so I know what I need to hit for the plot to work. After that, I make smaller entries about the details and any filler material. While I am entirely certain many of these details and even the order of some of these main points may change, I at least have a roadmap of where I’m going.

Once I have a direction, I feel comfortable and even confident. It also helps me prevent any continuity errors down the road because I won’t kill someone off in chapter 2 and bring them back in chapter 11. Not by mistake, anyway. Now, an outline doesn’t guarantee that it’s foolproof! Chances are you’ll come up with some errors and mistakes (it’s inevitable, that’s what an editor is for Winking smile), but at least there won’t be any glaring organizational issues if you keep roughly to what you had started with and if you make any significant changes to the order of things make sure you write it down!

For me, the best way to do an outline has to be pencil and paper. There’s just no duplicating it.  At the bottom of this blog, I have an example of an outline I did for one of the novels in the series I’m working on. The entire outline is 100% different now, I had to rework a lot of it, but it’s a good example of an outline for a novel.

I blacked out all my characters’ names, the name of the work, and any details that would be indicative of my series. No offense to anyone, but I don’t want the world to know what I’m writing just yet.


2 thoughts on “Organization & Outlines

  1. Profound Writers says:

    Even with technology today, there is nothing like a pencil and paper. I like to do my outline with index cards and a bulletin board, that way I can rearrange all my notes without crossing anything out or erasing anything.

    • E. Harvey says:

      I absolutely. Regardless of all the technology available to me, nothing can quite match the feeling of writing things down long hand. I prefer to do all my notations long hand where possible, it just renders a more deep sense of satisfaction and a more intimate connection to the work.

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