March 21, 2012

Behold the power of the outline

At a chamber fellowship meeting, I was asked to share my top editing tip. Didn't have to think long about it: outline.

I resisted outlining for many years, because it reeked of term papers and therefore seemed uncreative. Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Pro software convinced me otherwise.

Once I realized the power of outlining to organize my novels, it became obvious that the same power could be harnessed for any writing task. And should be. I have seen repeatedly in journalism, in fiction, and in non-fiction that omitting an outline results in disorganized work.

Even if your outline is just five items on a Post-It note, or two items in your head, have one. The longer and more complex your work (hello, novelists), the more you need an outline.

Many fiction writers resist outlining. Ingermanson discussed with Larry Brooks how even writers who prefer to work by the seat of their pants can be helped by judicious use of structure.

An outline is not a constraint. It is a guideline and a set of goals. As for creativity? Goal-setting practically requires it.


  1. Hi Kristen, I so agree with you. Randy I. Snowflake Software sounds great.Outlining has helped me so much. It has made a world of difference in my writing adventures. I found you on NovelTrackWriting with the ACFW. I will also let our writers group Pens of Praise know about your blog! Happy writing.