Types of Outlines

Outlines bring structure to your plot and helps establish a flow in your work. Though I used to be the anti-outline advocate, that was because I couldn’t find an outline that worked for me. Normally with my writing I would freewrite in hopes that something would fit and go but that  never helped. Everything would get jumbled. So now I kind of mix outlining with freewriting and end up with a structure for my chapters. Hopefully today I can do the same for you by going over a few types of outlines.

The Super Structure

This is for the super organized writer who wants every bit of information that they are going to include in a scene. With this outline, writing can be much easier for you but you may be stuck in a bind if a scene or chapter goes a different way than planned.

Example

  • Chapter
    • Chapter Plot Point
    • Scene
      • Scene Plot Point
      • Characters
      • Etc.

The Plain Structure

This one is simpler than the Super Structure. Here it’s more focused on the plot points themselves rather than all the information. If you think back to your Language Arts classes, then you are familiar to this type of outline.

Example

  • Chapter
    • Chapter Summary
    • Scene
      • Plot Point 1
      • Plot Point 2
      • Plot Point X

With the Chapter Summaries, it is the same as writing the main idea. The plot points for the scene can be the supporting points in each scene that act out the summary. Single sentences can work really well for this.

The Free Fall

This outline is more of what I do. It is a similar set up to the plain structure but is it all summaries. It takes the longest to write but when you switch over to your rough draft the transition is quick because it is just a transfer with added dialogue to it.

Example

  • Chapter
    • Chapter Summary
    • Scene
      • Scene Summary

For me, I like taking a different colored pen and writing notes for the scene I’m working on to add to it later, and then highlight spots where dialogue is going to be


So what do you do for outlining, if you do it at all? Are you more structured, free fall, or have you found a happy medium? Let us know and give examples in the comments please!

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3 thoughts on “Types of Outlines

  1. Well, I must admit that my four storylines are at the moment just keywords on a page. No outlining yet however, as soon as I have them worked out I will need to to make sure they cross each other at the right moments. I was thinking about using Excel.

  2. For novels, I’m somewhere between plain structure and free fall. Free fall is easier for me, but plain structure is more helpful because I tend to revise my outline as I go, and changes to a plain structure outline are easier when it’s just minor plot points I’m tweaking.

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