Fiction writing is all about using the depths of your imagination and piecing together a story one idea after the other. As you are planning to write a story whether it’s a short story, novella or novel, it is important to always use an outline before you start. 


In order to make an effective outline, you must develop your premise, which can typically answer some of your story’s core questions, such as who the protagonist is, identifying their goal and narrowing in on how they plan to achieve their goal. Then ask, what disaster will you throw your protagonist off balance? Who will create a problem that will keep them from achieving their goal, such as  the antagonist? Lastly, what is the core conflict? The first thing to do is answer all these questions in a paragraph and see if the story connects, then you can start making your full story outline. 

There are multiple ways to do an outline. One is called the synopsis outline, in which you highlight all of your story’s major plot points, hook and climatic sequence and then fill in the dots when you write your novel. Another is the in-depth outline, in which you summarize your chapters one by one. The third outline is most popular with writers, called the snowflake method, in which the story idea is expanded little by little. Not only is the outline of the story intact, but there is a strong understanding of your characters, settings, themes and more. 

During the outlining process, it is important to track the themes which could help readers truly understand what the story’s message is. For instance, in the acclaimed romance tragedy “The Great Gatsby,” the main message of the book is ‘God sees everything,’ in which the main character, Nick Carraway, represents God and how he has to keep Daisy’s husband, Tom, from finding out about her affair with an old millionaire flame, Jay Gatsby. Themes such as  love, identity and loneliness  should have some sort of overall meaning to the story and somehow tie into events that are happening in the story. Remember not use too much theme or there will be a lot more telling than showing.

On a final note, remember outlining is critical in the early stages of writing and can determine what direction the story is going. Themes are the backbone of the overall story and will keep readers attached to the book in a personal way. These two steps are just the baby steps in writing. It’s always great to start small and build up to completing your stories. 




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