The Benefits and Struggles of Outlining: After The Fact

Working through my outline has been an experience. I chose not to outline at the beginning, so I didn’t have an overview of the project. I spent the past two weeks writing the outline for the first draft of the book, the perks of which are that I don’t have to adjust any previous work to match what I have now, and I was able to write the first draft completely free of mental restriction. Pulling the outline together wasn’t easy though, and this week’s post as about the struggles I encountered and the overall benefits of the work done.


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One problem I had was my editing mindset. When I started outlining, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and outline each chapter as I edited. This worked well, up until chapter 15, which is a significant emotional beat in the narrative.  I wasn’t satisfied with the chapter and strongly considered rewriting it, but doing that would affect the rest of my story on ways I couldn’t fully grasp without a full view of the story. I couldn’t change this scene without understanding how it interlocked with everything that came after it. So I decided to finish the outline and correct the book from there. Despite making this decision, my mindset hadn’t changed. In every chapter I worked through, I felt compelled to edit it, despite not knowing if it would appear in the final draft of the book. I didn’t want to waste time, but it was easy to get caught up in the details without realizing. I had to force myself to finish the outline without editing, but that brought a different problem with it.

After Chapter 15, things become more emotionally dense. Charlie’s depression takes a turn for the worst, and all of the characters feel its effects. This is good from a writer’s standpoint but unfortunate for someone trying to write an outline. I would get caught up in the emotions of the chapter rather than focusing on the task at hand, and that slowed my progress dramatically.

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In the end, I decided to skim over the emotions as much as possible, focusing solely on the events taking place. Now that it’s finished, I have access to a bird’s eye view of the repetition, symbolism, and scenes that should be altered to improve the narrative flow. I realized that at the end of the book, characters begin having multiple dense conversations that could be distilled into smaller ones to make them more digestible and enhance the themes. I also realized that the symbolism in the novel is very lop-sided towards the end of the book, rather than being evenly dispersed throughout, which would make the work more poignant and cohesive. With access to an outline, I can work on long-term planning, as well as recognize the ideas and emotions that are already in play in the current draft of the book.

Outlines are hard for me because I find them creatively inhibiting.  Drafting an outline of a completed book has complications, but with it done, I will be able to manage my time and tasks more efficiently overall, which will alleviate the pressure of running out of time. It will also give me a tangible grasp on what needs to be changed, instead of just a mental image that could potentially be forgotten.

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Thank you for your continuous support and encouragement. My journey is better for your presence.

Project Status: Editing is on hold as I rework the story with a paper version of my outline. Beta readers are also in play, helping me to discover what does and doesn’t work from a narrative standpoint. Thank you Beta Readers for everything.


Author: katiefortinwrites

A writer for 8 years now, I'm here to continue my endeavors and to share my journey and experiences as I work through my latest project: a book about depression, hope and overcoming. I hope you stay and laugh and cry with me as we go down this road together. Who knows what beauty we'll find there?

2 thoughts on “The Benefits and Struggles of Outlining: After The Fact”

  1. I enjoy reading parables, especially the ones in the Bible. Concepts are much better understood through a story. Here is a story that I once read. It is about a car racing team working on a race car before a big race. They workd and work on the car. Testing it, adjusting components, tweeking it to perfection. Finally the pit crew boss said that eventually they just had to walk away from it all. Let it go, they did their best. Then during the race pray that some 50 cent bolt doesn’t fall of the car by the vibrations of the engine, being overlooked and under tightened.


  2. Hi Katie … thinking of my own book based on a difficult reality, the deeply trying parts seemed to come out in a gush of emotion, but when I revised (3 or 4 times) those sections remained largely intact, it was the inbetween chapters that needed help to sustain their interest compared to the emotional strength of the more compelling scenes.

    I find that your approach is fine. Your story was obviously stirring back and forth in your head for some for some time before setting pen to paper …. your outline was already in your head. The written outline is merely an aide to help you get to the best, the most meaningful, arrangement possible.


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