30 September 2014

6 Questions To Answer Before You Start To Write That Book

Why write an outline?  Wouldn’t it be easier to just start writing and see where your imagination takes you?  After all, you’ve had this idea swimming around in your head for a long time and you’re eager to get started.  However, before you do, can you answer these 6 questions?:-

1.      Who is your main character?
2.      What is your main character’s goal?
3.      What is stopping your main character from achieving that goal?
4.      What time and place is your story set?
5.      What genre is your story?  Mystery, Romance, Comedy, Thriller etc.
6.      Are you going to have one viewpoint character or more than one?

Whether you plan to be an outliner or write by the seat of your pants, having answers to the above questions is the place to start.

What are the benefits of making an outline?
·         An outline is a roadmap for you to follow.  This doesn’t mean it can’t be flexible.
·         It avoids spending time writing scenes that do not further the plot or they come to a dead-end.
·         Enables you to plan what pitfalls your protagonist is to come across.
·         It enables you to set up the end of your story.  In turn, you can write scenes that lead to this end.
·         Sub-plots can be entwined throughout the story along with a few red herrings.
·         Lessons the probability that you will have to do a lot of rewriting.

I have been both an Outliner and a Pantser, and have found that having some kind of an outline is good for me.

What is your preference, and why?


  1. I often go by the seat of my pants, but having an outline might actually get my story out of my head and have all important beginning-middle-end. Thanks for this food for thought.

  2. I think that if we know our protagonist's goal and how he/she might achieve that goal goes a long way in helping us get through the middle to the end, Catherine.
    Good luck with your writing.
    Best Regards, Jill

  3. Great stuff.
    I always work with an outline as it keeps me focused through the writing, but I also make sure I have the character's personality down on paper to keep them consistent. I write character driven novels so the character's detail's, including the past have to be there before I can start.

    1. Thank you for sharing your methods, Michael. I think having your characters details down on paper and easily accessible is very good and so necessary. I have done the same in the form a tables for characters in each of my books as well as a list of those that reappear in the series.
      Back story is another necessity. Thank you for mentioning it. All the best, Jill