CraftWork ~ Using outlining to enrich storytelling

FloralABC_Irecently attended a Writer’s Digest Webinar presented by K.M. Weiland on outlining your novel.  Ms. Weiland says that outlining offers several advantages when done prior to writing:




  • Provides cohesion and balance
  • Prevents dead-end ideas
  • Allows foreshadowing
  • Smooths pacing
  • Indicates preferable POVs
  • Maintains consistent character voice
  • Offers assurance and motivation


Many writers dislike the idea of outlining because they believe it will stifle creativity.  Ms. Weiland asserts that outlining is actually a way to discover and explore your story by using the tenets of good storytelling.  She says that your outline is a tool  and that you don’t need to follow a prescribed format, but you should think of several key elements before sitting down to write that first chapter:


  1. Premise: this is the basic idea or mission statement of the story
  2. Scene list: a list of what you know about the story
  3. Key story factors: three elements that must be considered are motive, desire, and goals
  4. Conflict: list the 10 worst things that could happen
  5. Theme: how will the main character change as a result of the story’s events
  6. Character sketches: what has shaped the character to make him/her respond to the story’s inciting events as she/he does
  7. Backstory: general statements of the main character’s education, jobs, personal epochs
  8. Setting: if the setting is inherent to the story, how does it affect the character’s viewpoint and mood of the story


Once these elements have been scoped out you are ready to begin the actual outline.  This could include a detailed list of scenes in chronological order.  Another approach is to do a reverse outline where you start at the end and work back to the beginning.


In the end, every writer eventually develops their own process. But employing these technique can ensure that your storytelling is rich and moves readers in a way that they can’t help but turn to the next page, and the next.