Step 3: Make a Thorough Outline

A good outline is key in helping to save time. I didn’t do this at first, and so I ended up having to go back frequently to read what I had already written, just to remember details or to see if a detail had already been mentioned.

I’m not saying don’t write down a scene if it is speaking to you, but before you write too much make sure you have a basic idea where you are going and when certain things are going to be revealed. Since I am a bit of a free writer, I’ll sometimes start a passage only to have it end differently than I expected. That’s because I want the outcome to be organic and not contrived.

That’s okay! After you are done with a passage be sure to update the outline to include a little bit about what the passage is about, and any important information revealed during it. This is just so you can find the information quickly when you are writing the next piece.

For the type of writing I do (fantasy fiction) I also wrote down a list of all the characters with notes on their appearance, age, and background. Keep the list in alphabetical order so you can reference it as needed.

You might also need a list of all places mentioned, with notes on where they are located. I drew a crude map so I could make sure the geography made sense. If I ever get better at drawing I’ll include the map someday!

Finally, I made a timeline noting when different things happened including all events mentioned in the book, even if they went back 20 or so years from the start. This is an additional way to organize your thoughts and make sure that there aren’t any glaring mistakes. You don’t want to end up with a character who is twenty-seven forever (or maybe you do!).

These are things you will be updating as you go along. Before any major changes, you might want to copy the files and tuck them away in a folder, just in case you want to go back to see what they used to say.

Next will be Step 4: Write!