Outlining a story

Outlining a story – heresy you say?

Let me state up front – this is MY approach. It works swimmingly well for me, but others might think I am bonkers.

Before I start writing the first paragraph of a novel, I have at least in rough form each chapter I expect to produce.

I know I am going to have some creative types throw fits and others saying things like, “How can you possibly know what you’ll say before you start? That handcuffs my creativity, no way I would do that! You aren’t a writer, you’re an alchemist!”. (I paraphrased that last one from someone who might have used different choice words about formulas)

To tell you the truth, I admit to understanding that others successfully approach writing novel length things differently — but I couldn’t conceive of how I would organize my thoughts and not go insane without outlining extensively.

First of all, why do I do it?

Saves me lots of time!

Most writers are familiar with the rewrite process. In fact I go through many rewrites during the creation of a novel. However the vast majority of my rewrites happen before I’ve written the first formal paragraph of the novel. How you ask do you do that?

Well, I have an extensive outline I create that serves as the skeleton of the twists and turns of the novel and it’s main characters. What issues do they encounter, what problems must they solve, what elements are important, etc. I have found that in my writing, and before I feel the outline is complete, I will have changed or reordered vast elements of the outline.

This takes time and energy, and I’ve found is oftentimes inspired by a good night’s sleep or time away from the outline. However, the results are that when I declare my outline complete, I am pretty happy with where the story is going, and when I sit down to write, I have a lot more fun knowing that I am not that far away from seeing the concept go into a useful form.

The time it takes to read just my outline is vastly less than if I’d had prose that needs vast repair or replacement.

Before you ask, I’ll say this. No, all the exact details and almost none of the dialog are done in the outline (I may be nuts but I am not crazy!) The outline has the storyline and other important bits in it that help me organize thoughts, threads of activity, and pacing.

Hope that gives you a bit of insight to MY process. I know lots of others do similar things, and others would consider the above heresy and utter drivel. To each his own.

Guest post by Michael A Rothman. I am an Army brat and the first person in my family to be born in the United States. This heavily influenced my youth by instilling a love of reading and a burning curiosity about the world and all of the things within it. As an adult, my love of travel allowed me to explore many unimaginable locations. I participated in many adventures and documented them in what will be a series of books, the first of which you have just read.
Some might put these books in the Fantasy genre, and I never had issues with this label. After all, the adventures were, without any doubt in my mind, fantastic. I simply quibble with the label of “Fiction” that some might put on these tales. These tales should be viewed as historical records, more along the lines of a documentary.
I’ve learned one thing over the years. Magic is real. Keep exploring, and you too will find your magic.

Michael’s Website:  http://michaelarothman.com/
Follow Michael on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/MichaelARothman

Michael will be awarding a $50 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So I encourage you to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/05/virtual-book-tour-tools-of-prophecy-by.html


  1. I like the way you think and write. Everyone is different and that is why there are so many authors. You sound like a great one.

  2. It is amazing how much goes into writing a book. We who read them don't really think bout that.

  3. I can really see that as a super effective method, and whish that when I humor my mind and write down the stories swirling around up there, I could use it! But honestly, I have no idea what is going to come out until I sit down. Consider yourself lucky! ;-)


  4. I outline, but very loosely. Even though things can change along the way, I can't image not having some kind of "map" to help me find my way.

  5. ...AND I edit, so I don't use the same phrase twice in the same sentence. *gah*

  6. I think an outline has a lot to offer a writer. It can't hurt to see the progression of a story laid out in an orderly way.


  7. Rebecca Hipworth3 August 2012 at 14:57

    It's quite interesting to learn how this process takes place.



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