Last week I talked a little about the actors on the stage of your story--the characters. Having a story idea and characters to act out that story are good things to have when you're setting out to write. So, what's next?
When you're writing a story, you need to know where you're going, otherwise you'll get lost. How do you keep on track? Wouldn't it be great if there was a tool to help you do it? Guess what? There is! That tool is an outline.
The outline is your map. It helps you plan. Where does your story start? Where does it end? What happens in between? You'll want to have answers to these questions before you get started.
A good way to write your outline is to chart it out in your journal. This will help you get things straight in your head. Once you have written down a basic outline of how the story will play out, you'll be ready to start writing.
Now, just because you have an outline doesn't mean you have to stick to it if you find it's not going the way you thought it would. Many times when I write, things don't happen exactly the way I planned it. Sometimes I run into detours, kind of like when the GPS recalculates your route. The key is to always keep your goal--the story's ending--in sight. No matter where my story takes me, I have my outline to guide me.
Have you ever outlined a story that you wrote? Was it helpful? Were there any surprises?