Ask Inkitt: Should I Outline My Novel?

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Inkitt offers a different model for drafting your manuscript because as the writer, you are able to receive instant feedback from a vast group of readers, and you can adapt your story as you go based on this feedback if it resonates with you and helps your writing process. Here’s an article on how and when to use reader feedback effectively: Ask Inkitt: What Should I Do With Reader Feedback?

To Outline or Not to Outline…

But that doesn’t address whether or not you, as an Inkitt author, should outline your story before you begin writing it. First, consider that an outline can mean different things to different people. One of my friends is an engineer, and he spends a good bit of time creating chapter by chapter outlines of his novel. By the time he sits down to draft, a good bit of the thinking and planning is already finished and he zips along with the writing. On the other hand, I consider myself a loose outliner. I’ve worked out major plot points and character arcs before I begin, but leave room for the story to evolve as I write.

While the Inkitt platform, by design, allows for early interactions with your readers and encourages adaptation based on that feedback, I still believe there is great value in mapping out your story ahead of time, and here are my top reasons why. An outline will help you:

1. Stay on Target

There’s less of a chance to get lost chasing an interesting but tangential plot line down a rabbit hole. More on that here: Have You Lost the Plot?

2. Avoid the Block

There’s less of a chance you’ll hit a true block. You may have bad writing days, places where something still isn’t working, but you will still have your general roadmap, and that will keep you heading in the right direction.

3. Hit Your Deadlines

You have a better chance of hitting a deadline. Maybe you don’t have an outside deadline, but at some point, you probably will. When I’ve planned out my story more fully, it’s much easier to stay on track, plan my daily output, and finish what I start in a timely manner.

4. Avoid Stress

It’s less stressful. Back to the roadmap analogy. There’s always a moment while drafting a new manuscript when I feel completely lost. I question everything from the solution to a plot tangle I thought was brilliant just a few days ago, to my own life choices. It’s a terrible time. But when I’ve already thought through my story, and I can follow my own roadmap, I regain my confidence in that story more quickly.

Some final thoughts…

Consider your outline part of the creative process, not time wasted. Just because you don’t hit a particular word count on a planning day doesn’t mean you haven’t made progress. While you are working out plot tangles and twists, and imagining your characters’ backstories, you are creating your story.

Messy is okay. I don’t keep my notes in one place. I have story notes on my phone, on napkins, on scraps of paper in the kitchen. My plotting system is messy, but it allows me to capture thoughts as they appear in my overactive imagination.

The process of thinking through major plot points and developing characters before you start writing in earnest may keep you on track, help you save time on your project overall, and give you the confidence you need to get through the bad days. So, Inkitt writers, outline away!

Want to know more about the Inkitt platform? We invite you to ‘ask Inkitt’ via email: [email protected]. We’ll post answers to the most frequently asked questions every Thursday right here on the Inkitt Writer’s Blog.  

Interested in learning more about how to succeed as an author on Inkitt?

Check out our last few Ask Inkitt articles, for insider tips, secrets and advice.

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About Author

Tabitha Lord is the award-winning author of the HORIZON series. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband, four kids, two spoiled cats, and lovable black lab.

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