The Mighty Outline, Part 1

Since I was asked how I do outlines, I decided to blog my answer instead of just commenting. Mostly because that way I can add a blog post for today, which will make me feel like I accomplished something, lol.

So, do you use 3×5 notecards? Or just list scenes. Or write out each scene on a notecard? How do you do it? I really think this is something I want to try.

I’ve tried several times to use physical notecards, and it’s a giant pain in the ass, frankly. I’m not a fan of piles of paper hanging around, since I’ll generally lose the important ones* or get bored with it halfway through. I also type faster than I hand-write, so if I get a new idea halfway through, I have to somehow keep it in my brain longer while scribbling down the original point.

Same goes for sticky notes; I know of at least one author who talked about sticking all the story notes on a wall, which gives a great visual of the story, but it just wouldn’t work for me. Oh, and I’ve had times when I’d been going through old papers and found various notecards, stickynotes, and torn scraps of paper, and had absolutely no idea what story I was talking about.  Very frustrating.

Instead, I start with a word doc and make a list of scenes in point form. Right now, since I’m trying to throw together outlines for approximately 50 stories**, I’m stopping at this point; otherwise I’ll get bogged down in the details and never actually start writing. My  underlying goal to these outlines is to work out which stories I know well enough to write, and which need more structure. The complete ones will go to the top of the ‘really should write this now’ list, and when I pick one, that one will get expanded. The rest, well, I’ll blog about that in Part 2. Eventually.

Now, where the hell was I? Right, outlining.

Once I’ve got this simple outline complete, I’m ready for the next stage. Yes, there is a next stage, and more after that, lol. While I can easily use this basic outline (and have, many many times because I procrastinated too dammed long), if I’ve got the time, I take it further.

The point form notes are extremely basic, but I don’t want to tell the entire story in the outline, as then there’s no need to actually write the story! What I do is add more notes below each of the original points. Which is why I use a word doc; secondary lists are super easy. Theoretically this is where I’d use those notecards, but I already explained why I don’t.


Once I’ve got these basics, I switch over to Scrivener (stage three!). Why? Because Scrivener has nifty graphic notecards! I paste all my info into these notecards, save it all as scenes, and presto, I’ve got a completed outline! And it can all be shuffled around, deleted, added to, new cards added, etc. And I don’t have to worry that I’ll lose a some of it because it’s all electronic.

I love Scrivener. The only reason I don’t start in it is that I like saving the outline online, and Google drive doesn’t play well with Scrivener. If I want to write a scene while I’m at work, I can easily open up the outline doc again.


*This usually happens when I need to write down a street address or grocery list, at which point the piece of paper goes off on an adventure. It rarely comes back.

**At least some of these will be short stories. I hope.


One thought on “The Mighty Outline, Part 1

  1. Thank you so much! Your system makes a lot of sense! Plus, I’ve heard soooo much about Scrivener. I think I might have to go with it. It sounds like something I might be able to use…to get better control of this jumble of stuff I call writing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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