“Outline, outline, outline.” – Terry Brooks
It’s an easy quote to remember. Luckily. Because it’s one of the most vital bits of advice I’ve ever received at a writing conference. Not me personally, you understand. The room was packed.
I have found that revisions (as well as drafts) go quickly and smoothly when I outline over and over again. Generally I don’t refer to the previous outline before I write the new one, trusting my writer’s mind to have made forward progress since I last outlined it.
I have a template I cobbled together from three books on novel and screenwriting structure that I print out to help me with the narrative’s form. I work on the template outline in pencil and date each outline, and then staple them together for individual projects. I outline for the hero, and for the supporting characters and the antagonist.
This all sounds very organized, much more organized than I really am. But it’s more about structuring routines. If outlining is vital to your writing process, then it becomes a routine in the day that supports the writing life. I walk into revisions and drafting sessions with confidence.
And the great thing for time management is that outlining and re-outlining only takes a few minutes. So much of time management for writers is using the bits of time here and there in the busy writing week.
Terry Brooks’s advice was a most generous gift. Because of him, I don’t fear a blank page.