No, not THAT “O” word! I’m talking about the “O” word that strikes terror into most mortal human beings who somehow managed to survive High School English. I’m talking about Outlining!

I’m here to tell you that outlining has been given a bad rap, and I’m not just speaking from a retired teacher’s point of view.

I know most people shudder uncontrollably at the thought of Roman Numeral main ideas and Capital Letter subtopics and little numbers and then lower case letters breaking down the details into teensy-tiny specifics, but that’s not the only way to outline. In my teaching career, I taught outlining by clustering, mind-mapping, and graphic organizing, just to name a few methods.

The way I personally “outline” is more like the storyboard of a motion picture screenplay. It’s totally scene-driven, adding in random details from my compiled and semi-organized notes list. I can write as detailed or as vague as I want. This will be my writing guide, and no one will ever see it but me.

Using a stream-of-consciousness style of writing out my thoughts, the computer has made it quite easy to not only “tell the story,” but also go back to insert, delete, and rearrange to my heart’s content. Mostly, I find myself inserting greater specifics as they occur to me, or as I find something else I want to add from my notes.

Book One had an 18-page narrative outline, roughly broken down into 20 chapters. When I actually wrote the book, the outline kept me (loosely) on track. Some chapters went along pretty much as expected, but most of them surprised me, while still moving me toward the ultimate finish.

Book Two’s outline may not be quite as long. But then again, it might be. I’m not sure, as it’s not finished yet. But it’s started, I’m about 10 pages into it, and that is certainly something to celebrate!