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Tips, Tricks, And Talks With a Beginner: Outlines

"Each writer or creator has a set of tools at their disposal. I firmly believe it wouldn't hurt to try them all."

By James U. RizziPublished 3 years ago 5 min read

“Ugh! ok fine I'll do the one about outlines!” I'll be honest right out the gate. I've been dreading to write this one for a while. If you know me or you've read any of my work you'd know that in my illustrious 6-month career I have yet to use any sort of outline before I write. I can't tell you why exactly. Perhaps I'm just too spontaneous (procrastinator). or I just go for the stream of consciousness approach (disorganized). Or maybe it's because I follow my long-time writing mentor and liaison of exemplary horror novels, Stephen King. I closely follow his teachings, especially when he said, “I don't like to use outlines. I believe the story will write itself.”(excuse).

Be that as it may in an attempt to become a better writer I like to look down all avenues. Each writer or creator has a set of tools at their disposal. I firmly believe it wouldn't hurt to try them all. Anything you do in terms of your writing can only benefit you. Write is a verb, after all, no reason you shouldn't explore all your options. This may broaden your horizons to other forms or genres of writing; it's all about trial and error, what works for you and what doesn't. Either that or you've been doing the wrong outline. That's why I have compiled four different types of outlines citing their benefits and how they can be conducive to your style.

Classical Outlining:

This form of outlining is usually the most common; it's the one you picture when you think of outlines. Far from my style, this is the most organized type of outline. It uses a sequential breakdown dividing main ideas with supplementary ones using numbers, roman numerals, letters, or whatever you fancy honestly. This works great for non-fiction. So if you've been looking into possibly breaking out into the non-fiction world this cohesive blueprint might be for you.

Summary Outlining:

Again, this type of outline caters to the non-fiction writer, or those who write screenplays or are looking to do so. Offering another branch of organization, this style of outline estimates a pre-designated amount of chapters, sections, pages, etc. Then, gives a summary for each one, detailing out whatever necessary plot, characters ideas, etc. This outline I find very useful when you have trouble completing your piece, or are subject to writer's block. It's always nice to have a continuous plan you can reference. Doing so means you've won half the battle.

Index Card Outlining:

Now we are getting to more my speed. This type of outline has the writer create short scenes or scenarios and scribble them on post-it notes. This is more in my wheelhouse of fiction or non-linear style writing. The type of writer who goes by the seat of their pants and hopes the story unfolds before their eyes. Granted, this brings a bit more organization into the mix without relinquishing your creative tendencies. You have a great idea, slap it on a post-it (or whatever you have handy). Take those shreds of thought and compile them together, I usually keep them close by for my spontaneous bouts of inspiration. The real beauty of this type of outline is its ability to be interchangeable and put together piece by piece. Like a giant story puzzle birthed from your beautiful mind.


Ok, this is it. I found it my favorite type of outline. This totally suits my scatterbrain train of thought. It creates a sort of map by using a main idea which you put in a big bubble then connect lines to other smaller bubbles with corresponding ideas. This connects the ideals of the index card outline with the inclusion of creative organization. You can really go off with this one connecting ideas as they come. If you have the aspiration or the space use a board or wall. Of course, people may question why you have the equivalent of an evidence or conspiracy board in your room. Just tell them you're an artist, that usually does the trick. And maybe forgo the red string and push pins.

Ok, so per the spirit of the article I'm going to include the outline for this, well… article

This is the most inception thing I've ever done. Write about writing while including a tool for writing in my writing.

Well here it is, in all its unedited glory. Oddly enough I went with the outline I like least, the classical outline. Just on the basis that it works well for non-fiction and being that it is the most organized, it would work well for someone who isn't.

1. Intro

1. a) funny quip about how I hate outlines and why I don't use them (cite Stephen King)

1. b) cite all the reasons why outlines are a good thing (insert cute thing about writing tools or something of that nature)

1. c) explain there are four different types of outlines you are going to map out in the body

2. Body (explain each outline type and how it can be used and its benefits)

2. a) Classical outlining - the most organized type of outlining using sequential break down of thoughts with numbers and or roman numerals great for non-fiction

Potentially put this outline example here citing it is the one I used insert joke about how I'm not organized but I went with this one anyway (kinda trippy)

2. b) summary outlining- estimate the number of chapters/sections/pages, etc and write a brief summary for each one

2. c) index card outlining- create short scenes ideas and synapse on index cards/post-it notes this has the availability to be changed at will explain it is was on your faves and it is good for fiction writers with a nonlinear style

2 d) Clustering- the main idea in a central bubble then lines connect to other bubbles with corresponding ideas

Potentially put this outline example here citing it is the one I used insert joke about how I'm not organized but I went with this one anyway (still kinda trippy)

3. Conclusion

3. a) explain how I learned from this citing this as a major source

3 b) explain how after this experience I will be doing more outlines

3. c) explain how everything is up to the writer but it's always nice to have options

Side note: try and find a funny meme about outlining?

Well, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this piece. In the beginning, I explicitly advocated against outlines but I can't tell you how many times I referenced the outline above. The use of the writer's tools is entirely up to the creator. That's the beauty of the tools, you never know what you'll uncover. For me at least I may not use outlines for all of my works but I will certainly use them much more now. Sorry Mr. King, I guess I'm not as avidly dedicated to your teachings as I thought.

That's all for now, folks. Until next time, happy writing.

Oh yeah the outline said to put a meme in so here:

how to

About the Creator

James U. Rizzi

I cant wait to see what I can create here.

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