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How to create and use and Outlines to organize your Stories

A good outline can provide a roadmap for your story. You can follow your outline and it will help to keep the information in order as well as keep you on topic. When you construct an outline, you are able to put your story in order in a way that your readers can understand and follow. How you write your outline is up to you, whether you scratch one out on a napkin or take the time to construct a formal, "proper" outline. It really comes down to your personal preference. After all, only you will ever see it. The basic format here, though, is the most common way to outline a story. This will help you keep your story organized.

Before you Start

Before you begin to construct your outline, make some notes on what you want to include in your story. Write them on a sheet of paper or use note cards and put devote an individual note card to each note or thought. Once you have everything written down, put your notes in order. If they are all listed on a page, number them in the order that you want to mention them in the story. If they are on note cards, number the note cards, and put them in order. During this stage it is easy to insert forgotten information, research notations and citations as well as dates and times

Outline Basics

When you are ready to begin your outline, begin with your main point. This will go under the Roman numeral one (I). Each new thought (each section or paragraph depending on the length of the story) will have its own Roman numeral (I, II, III, IV, etc.). Each of these Roman numeral thoughts can be a few words to prompt you or they can be complete sentences.  It is up to you to decide which way to go, but the important thing is to make sure that you have enough information there to effectively prompt you. These sections are the heart of your sections or paragraphs.

Under each Roman numeral you want to list subpoints. These subpoints are indicated by a capital letter (A, B, C, etc.). Any information that is related to a subpoint goes under that letter and is indicted by a number (1, 2, 3, etc.). If you need to flesh out these numbered notes, use a lower case letter (a, b, c, etc.). This helps you keep your information "tight" and on topic. It also helps you "flesh out" certain areas that you may otherwise inadvertently neglect. For instance, say you flesh out the other sections, but see that section B has nothing under it. You can take the time to examine it, see if explanation is necessary and make additions as necessary.


When you are creating your outline, each new section is indented slightly. For instance, I would be at the margin, and all the other Roman numeral sections would be at that margin. The lettered sections such as A, B, C and so on are indented slightly from the Roman numeral sections. Under the lettered sections, the numbered sections are indented even more and the lower case lettered sections under that are indented further.  Each individual Roman numeraled section is an inverted triangle. From there you can follow the information and it will make your story much easier to write - and much more organized.