Whether you’re writing a non-fiction how-to book, a fantasy novel, an autobiography or a cookbook, an outline before beginning provides a framework that can streamline the writing process and provide direction and cohesiveness in the long run. Outlining styles vary for different genres and there are several methods for completing them, but Midnight Publishing’s staff of writers and editors wanted to provide some tried-and-true advice on outlining that can help to jumpstart your book’s creation. (Not sure where to begin? Contact us today and we’ll discuss the ways we can help with all your writing needs!) Keep reading for our tips and tricks on drafting the perfect book outline:

1. Your Outline Can be as Detailed or as Basic as You Like but Consider that Less is Often More

An outline is purely that—a simple design for how the book’s content will be arranged. Sometimes authors can become bogged down in their outlining process, spending too much time planning out every step of the plot, or including characterization notes and/or world building information within the story’s outline. Create separate lists for character arcs, physical/personality traits, setting details, etc. that are easily accessible but don’t detract from the outline’s plot points. Outlines are meant to keep the writer from feeling overwhelmed by a manuscript, and a clear-cut outline that solely addresses the storyline achieves that.

2. You Can, and Often Should, Stray From Your Outline

Just as the saying “rules are meant to be broken” goes, outlines are meant to be strayed from. Part of the creative process is allowing one’s imagination to run free, and as long as the change keeps the plot forging forward to the book’s ultimate climactic goals, then it’s all right (and usually better!) to move organically away from the original outline. However, if you find yourself going down a bunny trail that doesn’t serve an important purpose to the overall plot and goals of the characters, then it’s time to return to the original outline.

3. Outlines Don’t Have to be Written Chronologically

Following along the lines of not needing to write a book chronologically, an outline doesn’t require being constructed that way either. If you envision a certain scene taking place and want to jot it down, you certainly should while you’re feeling passionate about it (authors might even draft the entire scene in that moment). A popular method for some writers when outlining is to write down those scenes they’re most excited about first, and then draft linking scenes between them that logically move the story forward.

4. There are Multiple Mediums Available to Use When Outlining

Outlining doesn’t have to be completed solely in a Microsoft Word document—there are numerous methods for constructing the storyline of your book. Other choices include the software Scrivener, notecards (this makes it especially easy to switch plot points around for potential new directions), whiteboards or handwritten in notebooks. Employing various mediums can help to expand creativity, breaking away from the rigidity of the story one “has in their head” and allowing the magic of the imagination to flourish on the page.

Midnight Publishing is an award-winning group of writers and editors who’ve made it our mission to enable authors and entrepreneurs to achieve their writing dreams. Whether it’s assistance with crafting your outline, organizing your existing content or copyediting before publication, Midnight Publishing does it all. We’ve been trusted with over five million words so far—find out why today!