How Outlining Can Save You Time in Your Writing

Do you run on a tight schedule? Between taking classes, working a day-job, keeping up with errands, and struggling to make time for your writing, you may feel a little overwhelmed. Well guess what? You’re not alone.

Being a writer in a fast-paced, distraction-fraught world is tough. It takes discipline, focus, and grit. You know your time is precious, and you do your best to snag every little bit of extra you can horde away. Time is to the busy writer what gold is to a dragon; the problem is, we’re all-too-easily robbed.

The Beauty of Outlining

If you were a part of my discussion on Instagram this morning, you know I am a huge fan of outlining. I do it for my novels; I do it for my blog posts; heck, I do it for almost everything! Outlining is how I roll, and I want to share a couple of reasons why.

REASON #1: OUTLINING HELPS MAINTAIN FOCUS

Even though things aren’t likely to show up on the page exactly as they do in my outline, having one helps to keep me grounded in the story instead of chasing squirrels and having to spend time back-tracking in order to get my bearings. I like to be able to stay focused on the next step in the process, rather than doing a bunch of last-minute guesswork before I can proceed. Efficiency, am I right?

REASON #2: OUTLINING PROVIDES DIRECTIONAL CLARITY

I can be a little—err…directionally challenged when writing. If I don’t have my handy roadmap with me, I tend to get lost amid the weeds of character backstory, subplots, and relational arcs—so much so that I may never come back out. I’ve learned that the lack of an outline can actually derail projects for me altogether, which is exactly what happened with my NaNo this spring. When the trajectory of a story or blog post is at least somewhat clear to me, I find that my productivity takes a drastic upturn.

Both of these things have worked together to save me loads of time in my writing. And while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the school of thought that you can write a flawless first draft, I do enjoy KM Weiland’s perspective on the subject of outlining, and how it can save you time in the long run.

The Pitfalls of Outlining

Alas, it would be remiss to talk about outlining without mentioning the pitfalls. For all its benefits, outlining can be detrimental to the writing process in its own right; namely for two reasons:

  • The tendency to “over-outline” and procrastinate to the point of getting stuck
  • The potential to reach creative burnout

 Despite being a lover of outlines, even I have fallen into these ruts in the past—particularly the first one. It’s easy to become so obsessed with getting every tiny detail “right” in your outline that you never get to the part where you’re actually writing. Of course, that does no good at all.

For some, extensive and tedious outlining can lead to creative burnout before the story has even begun. Again, this helps no one. It’s important to be aware of your creative tendencies when it comes to outlining. Are you going to be burnt out by adding too much detail to your roadmap? If so, stick to the bare minimum. After all, this process is meant to save you time and energy—not waste it.

Let’s chat!

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser?
  • What type of outline do you prefer: complete and detailed, or more of a bird’s eye view?
  • How has your outlining process (whatever it may look like) saved you time in the long run?

Hey! If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment and share it with a friend, or reply on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear about your process!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “How Outlining Can Save You Time in Your Writing

  1. Great points, Emily! I’ve always been a plotter, but, recently, I’ve really come to appreciate more detailed outlines. I’ve definitely fallen into those two pitfalls, though. My upcoming NaNo project will be the first time I’ve written with a super-detailed outline, and I’m really excited to see how it helps (but first I have to finish the outline before November 1!).

    • Yeah, those pitfalls can be real annoyances. But I still love outlines, and that’s awesome that you’ve got one for NaNo. It will certainly help a lot! Good luck!