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  • Derya Dinç

Navigating Writer's Indecision: The Art of Story Outlining

Many of my clients, to whom I provide coaching, often find themselves in a deep quagmire of indecision when it comes to their work. These individuals are highly successful in their personal and professional lives, motivated, and able to lead organized lives. However, first-time authors who are in the process of writing their first book often harbor doubts and continually make changes out of uncertainty when it comes to their works.


So, do all these changes yield positive results?


A writer, especially in the realm of fiction writing, creates a universe. Whether this universe is similar to ours or entirely unique and different, the creator and custodian of this universe are the writers. The characteristics, history, mythologies, characters, and events in this world are all in the hands of the writer. This means the writer must make hundreds of decisions that affect both the small picture and the entire universe within their own story.



My writers sometimes surrender to their doubts when their novels are completed and it's time for the editing process. I'm not talking about simple corrections like changing the name of the book, a character, or a city. Instead, they make radical changes such as adding a new character, altering the sequence of events, changing a character's gender, or fundamentally changing the relationship between two characters.


Sometimes these changes can be exactly what the book and the story need. In such cases, no matter how comprehensive the changes are and how much time they take to implement, they can contribute positively to the story. But at this point, rather than correcting and altering the content of the book using the search and replace feature, it is necessary to thoroughly examine the entire story from scratch, go through every line of content, and skillfully apply the butterfly effect that the changes will have on the story.


At this stage, many authors who have already spent months, perhaps even years on their work often find it overwhelming to go through the text line by line again and may abandon the project. Making a significant change to a story, especially one that has a butterfly effect, can spread throughout the entire book, making the author feel like they need to start from scratch. At this point, aspiring writers who are already tired and frustrated may shelve their dreams. Reading a text repeatedly, no matter how much you love your story, is a challenging task. It also requires dealing with a phenomenon known as text blindness in the industry, which can lead to overlooking errors.


Text blindness encompasses the brain's tendency to automatically correct or overlook mistakes when a text is read repeatedly.

For the writers I work with and provide coaching to, if they have reached me at the beginning of their projects, I recommend a process called outlining. This process, known as outlining in English, creates the skeleton of a story. It establishes a program that the writer can follow and makes the writing process easier. More importantly, when it comes to a challenging and time-consuming task like writing a book, outlining helps you see the end of the project. With this method, you can eliminate risks such as starting to write a novel and getting lost before reaching the end, or realizing that you can't finish it when you're halfway through. It also allows you to see and apply any major changes, such as changes in character gender, or relationships, to the entire story before you start the writing process.


ana hat çıkarma outlining

The writers who reach me for coaching at the beginning of their projects often fall into two categories. Some are eager to start writing immediately, and it can be challenging to slow them down and encourage them to outline. Others find it helpful to organize chaos, progress in a more planned and organized way, and see the light at the end of the tunnel at the beginning of the project. With these writers, I prefer to work on the outline of their stories for the first month (depending on their availability). This period may seem long at the beginning of the work, but it will shorten your novel writing process, make it more efficient, and prevent you from wasting time when you reach the middle of the project and realize you can't finish it.

There are many books and resources available on outlining, especially in the English language. When working with aspiring writers, my preferred method is to assign them short tasks and assignments. The first of these assignments is a process I call "Let's assume." At this stage, I ask my writers to summarize their story ideas with a single question. To give an example, for the bestselling novel "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, the question would be, "What if children had to fight in gladiator-style games?" For Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations," the question would be, "What if an orphan were given a great fortune by an unknown benefactor?" In "The Lord of the Rings," the question would be, "What if a ring with the power to change the world fell into the hands of one of the smallest of living creatures?" Having my writers summarize their story ideas in this way helps them stay on track during the planning and writing process.


The second step in outlining is summarizing the expected and unexpected points. This is where my writers identify surprise endings and unexpected elements in the story. For example, in many books, common elements include the protagonist winning the love of the woman they desire or the antagonist meeting their demise. Listing these common factors that often occur in books can help you see the direction in which your story is progressing as you write. In the case of "The Hunger Games," unexpected points would include two characters falling in love in the arena and the games leading to nationwide uprisings. Clearly defining these points creates a roadmap and is crucial for the development of the story. Additionally, seeing these points as a list in front of you can reduce your indecision and allow you to implement the changes you plan to make before you start the writing process.



Other aspects of outlining include identifying major challenges and their effects, how much each character is affected, and outlining the backgrounds of the main characters. The settings and locations where the story takes place are determined, descriptions are made, and a timeline is created. From the perspective of the characters' personalities, their starting point and the point they are intended to reach at the end of the story are summarized. For example, in the "Hobbit," Bilbo goes from being a character who is afraid of adventures and stays within his comfort zone to a character who discovers his inner courage, forms friendships, travels the world, and overcomes challenges with his intelligence. You can see the same pattern in various Disney princess stories, where these princesses break free from the expectations placed on them, find the courage within themselves, the freedom, and love they were looking for, and explore the world.


Creating an outline is especially important for aspiring authors who are writing their first book. At this stage, you can seek support from a professional developmental editor or review books and resources on the subject. In conclusion, creating an outline and planning your book in as much detail as possible before you start writing will save you a lot of time during the writing process, resolve your indecisions, and make your story much more consistent.

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