So, you want to know the best way to outline your book. You have googled and have been overwhelmed with all the different recommendations, and now you are waiting for me to do the same. Well, unfortunately for you, I will not be doing that. My theory is the best way to outline your book is by applying what you believe is best for you as a writer. You see, there are two main types of writers; organic and structured. An organic writer is a person who writes on the seat of their pants. They don’t follow an outline. Instead, they let their story develop organically.
A structured writer is the opposite. I call them “plotters.” This writer will develop the story’s entire plot before writing their first word.
Some writers create both ways. It doesn’t matter which type of writer you are; determining how you will outline your story is essential. For example, I am both. I create the major plot points and then fill in the blanks as I write. Sometimes it leaves holes in my story, but that’s nothing that three to four rounds of editing won’t fix.
Here are the known outlines and their breakdowns to help you sort through how you would like to outline (if you choose to).
A chapter-by-chapter outline is where you would map out each chapter of your manuscript. This is a very common way of outlining your story. Then, you summarize what is supposed to happen in each chapter. This can help the author visualize the structure of their story, how it will be written out, and how each chapter will contribute to the story’s main plot.
A mind map is a visual way to map out your ideas. Start with a central idea, then branch into subtopics and ideas related to your story. This could be a great way to generate ideas for your story if used correctly. Be careful with this, though. It’s easy to get off track sometimes. Your subtopics must match. Take your time and get the details right.
This one is similar to the chapter-by-chapter outline. However, instead of entire scenes, you jot down each scene of the job and a quick summary of what is supposed to happen in these scenes. This can help with the story’s pacing and helps prevent writer’s block because you always know what you are supposed to be writing about in each scene.
Last but not least, my favorite is the three-act structure. You divide the book into three sections the set-up, the confrontation, and the resolution. I use the Three-Act structure with every new story idea. It allows me to have the big event in my story already mapped out while still allowing me the freedom to figure out how my characters get to that point. I plot the big stuff, then sit down and write and see how my characters get there. Of course, sometimes my characters have a mind of their own and take a completely different direction than I first anticipated, but hey, there’s beauty in writing.
If you are still trying to figure out what to do, try them all. This can help you identify your writing style and voice and a method that would help you finish your book. But, of course, the only thing it can do is make you a better writer, and who doesn’t want that?