Outlining your story can often mean the difference between finishing or not finishing a manuscript draft.  An outline is a roadmap for you to follow as you weave your way through the narrative you have crafted, and knowing how your story ends can go a long way toward you accomplishing the goal of completing your story.  

Even if you assemble a basic story outline with broad strokes, at the very least, it’s a catalyst you can use to jump into the writing process.  Most of the time, however, you’ll need to dig deeper to find the essence of a chapter or scene, and that’s where micro-outlining comes into play.

Let’s talk about what it’s worth using!

#1 – Micro-Outlining Will Save You Time in the Long Run

At its core, Micro-Outlining is taking a scene or chapter of your story and breaking it down further to fully understand and develop what occurs between the characters and how the scene or chapter fits into the story as a whole.  

While having the main beats of the entire story hashed out is important, digging deeper into each chapter or scene is essential to getting to the heart of what’s happening. While this may seem tedious, it’s a valuable tool that will give you insight into the chapter and its place in the story, whether it’s needed or not, and how it ties into the rest of the narrative.

Now, once you start to write that chapter or scene, you know exactly where to go, what’s happening, what the conflict is, and how it leads into the next part of the story.  

#2 – Micro-Outlining Can Help You Work Out Story Problems

Big ideas can often lead to bigger story problems once you move from the outline and into the drafting process.  What seemed like a great direction to take the story suddenly feels like an insurmountable obstacle that grinds your writing momentum to a halt.

Using Micro-Outlining, you can resolve these issues in advance and find ways to either work with them or make the necessary changes before you’ve written yourself into a corner.  This will save you hours or days of going back and trying to fix issues that are already embedded into the manuscript and help you continue writing.

#3 – Micro-Outlining Allows for More Storytelling Depth

With a basic story outline, it’s easy to see what needs to be written and jump right in.  However, if you practice Micro-Outlining, you can find greater depth and dimension in your characters than if you took the broad strokes approach.  

Let’s say you’re working on a chapter in your novel about two characters: Jack and Jill.  Your outline says, “Jack and Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water.  Jack falls down and breaks his crown, and Jill comes tumbling after.”  This is pretty broad in its storytelling approach, but what if you took the time to dig deeper and used Micro-Outlining to find greater story and character depth that would engage the reader?

Obviously, there’s a reason they are headed up to get the water in the first place.  If Jack and Jill are headed to get water because they are thirsty, that’s different than if they are getting the water because there’s a fire.  Are Jack and Jill having a conflict?  What is their deeper relationship?  What causes Jack to fall?  Did Jill trip him?  How does Jack injuring his head thwart their progress of getting the water?  Why does Jill tumble down after him?  Was it from the shock of seeing him fall?  How do these incidents play into the next chapter?

By asking yourself questions and developing a more detailed plan as you approach each chapter or scene in your story, you can help strengthen your characters and narrative.

Final Thoughts

Writing a novel or a screenplay is a lot of work, and having a strong outline can help you get from start to finish more easily than writing on the fly. By digging deeper into your story using Micro-Outlining, you can mine greater meaning and insight from your narrative and characters than using a broad-brush approach.

Happy Micro-Outlining, and I’ll see you next time!

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