Mastering the Basics of Writing: Outlining.


I have always been a mostly “creative flow” writer. However, now that I am moving towards making writing historical fiction my career, it just isn’t practical…it is dangerously close to waiting for the muse, which is an excuse for capturing the creative flow only when it comes to you, but you have to wrestle “the muse” into submission to stay on track with your writing schedule and one of those ways to beat the muse is to outline.

Don’t allow the outline to stifle your creative process, but rather, let the outline give you the framework you need to move forward in your story. Use it as a guide and not as law because the characters sometimes want the story to go a different way than you had first imagined. Be flexible, but don’t let the characters run completely away with your story and it ends up being a train wreck.

Before you start outlining, you need to figure out a few things about your story:

  • What is the theme of your story?
  • What is the main character’s motive?
  • How will your hero/heroine’s character develop? (To start, your hero/heroine needs to be complex, but you need to find a way to let the reader figure out what’s going on inside the hero/heroine’s head.)
  • What is the voice or tone of your story?
  • What is the POV or point of view?
  • What are you major plot points on your Three-Act Plot Structure chart?
  • What is the pace? (Look for my blog post on Friday to find out more about the importance of pacing.)

Once you have the answers to the above, you can begin making, what I like to call, The Skeleton Outline. This is the chapter-to-chapter outline with your general ideas of where you want the story to go beyond the Three-Act Plot Structure chart. After your Skeleton Outline is complete, you are almost prepped for writing.

Every day before you begin writing, flesh out one chapter of your Skeleton Outline. I tried only using 5-10 minutes a day to flesh out my Skeleton Outline, but I found that if I devoted 15-30min, I don’t need to stop for the rest of the day to outline again, so I recommend outlining for at least 10 minutes a day to start you off. Once you have your outline for the day, write away!

What process do you use to outline your book?

Happy Writing!

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About Grace Hitchcock

Grace Hitchcock's first novella, The Widow of St. Charles Avenue, released in Barbour Publishing’s The Second Chance Brides Collection August 2017. Her second novella will release in Barbour Publishing’s The Southern Belle Brides Collection in 2018. She has a Masters in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Grace is a Louisiana Southerner living in Colorado with her husband, Dakota, and newborn son.

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