Mistakes I made when I outlined my book

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on getting my book sorted. It’s still very early days but I felt I had a good enough grasp on the plan for it to start creating an outline. For those of you who may not know, and outline is a step-by-step plan of what’s going to happen in your book. It can include your main plot, any subplots, important information, locations of particular scenes and the general timeline your book follows.

Outlining is an integral part of writing a book. Yes, you don’t have to outline, and you can still write a book. However, being completely truthful your books is going to have a lot of plot holes and most likely have a weird pace. What outlining does is it makes you think in detail about your plot and by doing this you can notice any plot holes or discrepancies that may be in your book. Another cool thing about creating one is that it can significantly reduce writer’s block. Just think about it for a second, if you’ve got a plan of what’s going to happen in your book your less likely to run out of ideas because the ideas have already been thought of and wrote down.

Basically, it’s a really good idea, and the more detailed it is the easier it should be for you to write your story (in theory).

This is what I’ve been spending most of my free time on as of late. I completed my outline a few weeks ago and have since moved on to creating character profiles and really getting to know the ins and outs of every character in my book. However, as of the doing this and referring back to my outline I’ve noticed there’s a few things that aren’t quite right and that’s what I’m going to discuss today, the mistakes I made when I outlined my book. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself time and a lot of annoying editing.

Not including chapters

we’ll start off with the biggest mistake, not including chapters in my outline. At first, I wasn’t really too sure of the length of the story. There was a lot of toying between it being a short story or novella/novelette. If it was a short story (just under 7000 words) then I wasn’t going to include any chapters, it was just going to be the story itself. But as I got writing the story developed further than your typical short story would, so I was torn between writing a short story and cutting bits out or writing something longer. The more time I spent outlining the more I want to stray away from such a low word count that a short story would limit me to.

To be honest, I don’t particularly like word counts as a rule. I feel it’s quite stifling and difficult to work with. I’m naturally an over writer, so I have to cut down on my word count. You’d think having a target word count would help me in writing, but it seems the opposite is true. I like the idea of being able to get all my ideas out on a page in one go and not disrupting my train of thought worrying about how close I am to the word count. So, for this reason I tend to stay away from them.

Partway through the outlining process I decided on writing a longer book, what wasn’t an issue. However, at this point all of my work in my outline had been to do with the plot and nothing in relation to chapters. The logical thing would have been to pause and spend some time working on where the chapters would be. But I was so determined to get my outline wrote up that I carried on.

What I’m having to do now is work out the correct pacing of my book. I already know the timescale of the story and the plot, that’s not an issue, but actually segregating it into chapters is quite difficult at this point. I’m having to spend quite a lot of time figuring out what’s going to happen in each chapter and ultimately how many chapters I want in my book. You wouldn’t think it would be hard however, it’s actually pretty difficult.

So, if you’re writing your outline make sure to add in where each chapter will be.

Not including the location of scenes

My characters do go to various different settings and locations, there’s not many of them but they do go back and forth between them regularly.

When it came to outlining I didn’t really think that I’d need to include the environment, it was only after watching some more YouTube videos on how other people outline their books that I realised adding in locations and timings would be a good idea. I think if my book was over a larger area, I would have thought to have added locations into my outline. But I thought that I knew the locations well enough to not include a note in the book plan. However, looking back I think adding the environment would have been a wise idea and it’s something I’m actually going to change in my outline (as well as adding chapters). When it comes to adding on location it doesn’t have to just include the physical settings, it can also include the time and date. For my book that’s over a matter of days it’s particularly important for there to be consistency in the actual time. As an example, I’d need to add in some sort of description that part of the story was set in the evening of a day. By adding notes on the environment, I would have been able to say what the time was and that would have definitely help in creating a more consistent flow to the writing and world building.

At the moment I feel like I’m having to spend a lot of time considering what time it is in the book and where this is in relation to the plot, if I actually included notes on the environment in my outline I wouldn’t be having this problem.

Not colour coding it

okay, this is more a personal preference than a mistake, but I think it’s worth including anyway. I’m dyslexic and also have visual stress disorder meaning the words can rotate and move around the page when looking at it. A big mistake I made with my outline was using black text for literally everything. I’m not too sure how it slipped my mind, but I forgot that I would be the one having to use this and read it pretty much every day.

What I found is I’m struggling to read the piece of paper that my outline is on. It’s not a major issue but it’s enough to be an annoyance. I’m already going to be making a few changes to my outline so whilst I’m at it I’m thinking it’s best to colour code it. I find having a lot of coloured text helps me keep track of where I’m reading and making sure I’m not rereading the same line twice. It may not sound like that big of an issue for some people but it’s enough of an annoyance for it to hinder my train of thought.

If you’re dyslexic just remember you’re the one reading your plan, it doesn’t have to look pretty, neat or even Instagram worthy. You need your outline to work for you and you alone. If that means colour coding it and highlighting, then go for it.

Writing a book is such a great learning curve, I’m pleasantly surprised how much it’s been challenging me both creatively and personally. You make a lot of mistakes and it’s good to be able to reflect on that, assess what went wrong and then fix it. I’m learning not to beat myself up if I have to edit something as important as my outline, because at the end of the day if I go into this thinking everything is going to be perfect then I’m never going to get this book done. Writing is challenging me to accept nothing will be perfect first time and that’s okay, at the moment it’s about getting my first draft completed and then editing it later.

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