Going from Outline to Manuscript

Writing ToolsIn developing a story, you will often hear the advice that outlining organizes your thoughts and makes the story more coherent.

This advice is valuable.

However, how do you get from the outline you’ve created to the manuscript?

Here are five tips I have for you writers who struggle to go from the outline to a full manuscript:

1. Follow the Outline.

This is basically step one. You should have added enough to the outline so plot threads you introduce actually have conclusions. If you follow this outline well enough, you will not forget about certain characters or plot elements. It drives me crazy in stories when authors forget about entire characters!

At the same time, don’t let the outline redirect you from creative ideas! Let ideas flow naturally, but let the story read naturally as well. It’s a tough balance.

2. Write Like You’re Reading.

When I say this I don’t mean skimming details. I mean, “write like you’re reading the story word for word”. If it’s quick and the pacing is wrong, slow down. If it’s too slow, speed up! Outlines aren’t much help for this kind of thing.

Your outline won’t have any concern for word count either (though it helps!) so make sure you pay attention to how much time certain story elements take. A quick action scene shouldn’t take ten pages of descriptions about a space ship!

3. Keep Your Folder Nearby.

I think you know what folder I mean. When you start writing a novel, you collect your ideas in a book or folder to keep them all organized. Mine would always look like a packet of mismatched papers!

Look at this folder every time you write. Your outline will guide you, but this folder will flesh out your world. These little touches build a world!

4. Develop a Plan for Each Character.

Getting each character where they need to be is part of your outline (rather, it should be part of your outline). If you are missing this in your outline, then you need to go back and figure this out. Don’t forget about a single character!

But overall, the outline might be missing those specifics that make your characters unique. Your folder from above should contain a quick summary of your character for you to reference, something that you can glance at and remember how you imagine the character to be.

If they change over time, that’s fine! But make sure it’s believable. Why are they changing? What are they responding to?

Creating a world in fiction is one thing, creating a person is another. However, they both spring from the little things.

(But ask yourself this: do you want believability or memorability?)

5. Find Time to Write.

This sounds so simple, but for those of us with careers, it’s difficult.

If you can’t write daily, then write every other day. If that won’t work, then write twice a week or once a week.

Time constraints are generally the only thing keeping your novel constrained to your mind.

I really hope that helps you! I found these tips specifically useful to me when I write. So if even one person gets some benefit from this list, I’m glad.

Keep writing!


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