The Clearest Guide to Outlining for TV Writers Since the Last Clearest Guide

JK Rowlings’ outline for some book she wrote about a kid named Harry Potter

There’s an awful lot of “How To Write A Good Outline” info out there, not only on the web but also in books. The section on outlining in our very own LB’s Television Writing from the Inside Out comes to mind. But until we can get him to condense the info and put it on this site, here’s what we believe to be the next best thing:

How To Save Tons Of Writing Time – By Using A Complete Outline – by Marina Brito

A few months ago, it was the Christmas season and I was out shopping for Christmas presents for my family.   I found my shopping trips to be inefficient, long-drawn, and incredibly frustrating. So much for the Christmas spirit!

But why did shopping have to be so frustrating? I realized that it was because I hadn’t planned it ahead of time and I had to figure out what to buy on the fly.

This frustration while shopping reminded me of my frustration while article-writing

My article-writing was also inefficient and long-drawn.   Just like my shopping, it was not planned ahead of time and I had to figure out what to write on the fly.

But I was in the practice of outlining my articles. So why was I still struggling?

I struggled because I often sat down to write my articles with a half-outline.  What do I mean by a “half-outline”?

A half-outline is one which only has questions in it

The questions that I’m talking about are the ones that I use to construct my outline such as: “how”, “why” and “what”.  I can also have other points that I want to cover in my article, but in a half-outline they’re just a list of points to cover.

The problem with the half-outline is that there are no answers to go with the questions or the points.  And that’s why I practically had to write every article on the fly and it was such a long-drawn and frustrating experience.

Fortunately, I found a solution:

The solution is to have a complete outline

A complete outline adds answers to the questions and to the points in the half-outline.  This is probably easier to understand through an example:

Let’s see how to use the complete outline on an article

Read it all

And when you do continue reading, be sure and mentally substitute “Teleplay” for article so you can properly welcome the epiphany to come.

2 thoughts on “The Clearest Guide to Outlining for TV Writers Since the Last Clearest Guide

  1. geraldsanford says:

    There are OUTLINE WRITERS, and SCRIPT WRITERS.
    Give me the SCRIPT WRITER any time. It’s what seperates the ARTISTS from those who PAINT BY NUMBERS. Simple as all that. gs

  2. Peter says:

    I disagree with geraldsanford completely, first of all on the distinction between “outline writers” and “script writers,” second of all that the latter are any more artistic.

    The final product is an interesting, emotionally engaging story, and there are several ways to get there. In my experience an outline is an essential part of the process, especially when working with others, which we all must do.

    Every time I’ve tried to work with the people who fancy themselves as rogue, misunderstood geniuses, the project invariably goes nowhere.

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