If there’s one major obstacle that prevents writers from completing their story, it’s getting trapped in the first chapter of the novel they’re desperately trying to complete, or the first act of their screenplay.
It’s understandable how this happens.
Trying desperately to write the perfect story, it is easy to fall into the trap of only seeing the first chapter, constantly rewriting and rewording it to be word-perfect, and not seeing the story as a whole, complete with a beginning (set-up), middle (confrontation) and ending (resolution).
It is not difficult to overcome this blinding obstacle.
The first step to completing the story is to write a story outline.
The outline allows the writer to construct a general list of sequential scenes and moments in the order that they will be written within a novel or screenplay.
This writing tool allows the writer to get an overview of the story beats and moments before applying them to the format of locations, scene description, and dialogue.
It empowers writers to structure and plot the story.
Using this overview, you can make creative and editorial choices before you take the time to write those scenes. So if you find within that outline that certain scenes are redundant, repetitive, or unnecessary, you save the time of having to move, adjust, or delete those written scenes after you’ve already taken the time to write them.
An outline is not a draft of your novel or screenplay, but a step towards mining the full dramatic/ comedic potential of your story.
This is not where you write your story, but simply outline your story from opening to ending. You’ll see the things that are working, and make it even better, and the things that aren’t, and avoid the nasty pitfalls that can result in failure.
Your outline is where you construct – and more easily deconstruct and/or reconstruct – your story, and make sense of the line of dramatic action.
Building your story from a story and card outline gives you full control over your writing.
If the outline only has 20 or fewer events, you are writing a short story/film, and if the outline has more than 100 events, you are probably writing a trilogy or even a TV series!
You can also use the complete story outline to craft each chapter, or scene in your screenplay by writing a Scene outline.
- The function of your story outline is to identify the story events (scenes) of the most important events in your Protagonist’s life.
- The function/ goal of the scene outline is to build and dramatise each story event, and to explore the exterior and internal lives of your story.
The Story Outline is an important document during the process when dealing with Publishers and Producers.
Most writers write their stories without spending quality time on their story and scene outlines, thinking that it will only be needed once the draft is done, or when required during the development process, but it is one of the most important and valuable assets in the writing process.
Outlining can be rather daunting for those unfamiliar with the process. Outlining your story is fully explored in The Write Journey course.