Diary of a Writer: Ideas & Outlines (1#)



  • What is this?
    Diary of a Writer is a series of threads that will explore every aspect of writing.

  • How does it work?
    In each thread we will go through two types of questions. The basic and the specific ones. Basic questions will explain everything you need to know about the current topic, and the specific ones will be the current topic put into context, the context being your stories!

  • What will else wiill this include?
    From answers and advice, the thread will try to expand to interviews, Q&A’s and will include useful resources and references both on and outside of Wattpad.

So now what we know how this works, what’s this thread’s topic?
Since this is the first thread, we need to start from the basic things you need to get started on your potential novel. Which is… drumroll please

So let’s get started!

  • What is an idea? When is it big enough, when is it too short and if so, how can we expand it? What makes an idea good? What are the most important things we need to have thought of before writing a novel? Is it bad to start writing without a specific idea in mind?
  • What is outlining? How can we outline a novel? What are some methods of outlining? Is it necessary to outline before writing a novel?
  • This where you come in. Ask questions regarding this topic and get answers :hearts:

Do you think you have answers to the questions above? Do not hesitate to post them below! You don’t need to be 100% professional, you can include your personal experiences. :slight_smile:

Thread 1#: New Clubs: wattpadwriters.com/t/diary-of-a-writer-ideas-outlines-1/984
Old Clubs: https://www.wattpad.com/forums/vanilla/discussion/1208154/diary-of-a-writer:-ideas-outlines-1

Members: [PM to be added]
@FetchingPenumbra @AliciaM21 @KaranSeraph @Ghostly_Girl


Ah I hope this goes well :hearts:


That thing you come up with in the dead of night and it suddenly sparks a fire in you and you want to write it, you can’t bear keeping it to yourself.

When it has a lot of elements already in it, a lot of characters, a lot of events, and so on.

When you write the first chapter and you’re suddenly… Well now what? That’s when it needs expanding. Think of what could happen. Why? Who would do it? Keep asking questions that will move the idea & plot forward :slight_smile:

Your writing, in my opinion. You can take a crappy idea and make everyone want to read it if you write it and present it well.

The main characters, definitely, and personally it helps me to have thought of the ending so then I can think how the plot will get to that ending instead of writing and then going… Well now I don’t know what ending will justify the story.

I do it :raising_hand_woman: It’s not bad but after you have a start you do need ideas to keep it going, I believe.

Planning out all the major plot events and characters before doing the actual writing.

There are many ways, from cutting it to acts with a climax and a resolution to doing a chapter-by-chapter short summary. For example: Chapter 1: MC is taken to the police station & questioning.

Nope, outlining is a method to help you keep writing and not get stuck! (And avoid plotholes). If it doesn’t help you, there’s no reason to do it. But don’t knock it till you try it, right?


It’s what inspires you to write a story. There are so many different forms: a what if? question, a setting, a character, etc. And ideas can come from anything. An experience, another book, a commercial, a song lyrics. Ideas are everywhere, you just have to recognize them.

When you feel confident enough to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). At least that’s how it works for me. Once I have a good idea of the basic plot, the characters’ personalities, and the general makeup of the setting, I feel confident enough to start.

If you find the idea needs a bit more expansion, try researching the subject more (even fantasy stories require research). Maybe get to know your characters better through backstories and lists of what you know about them. I find that characters I know well can help me through all sorts of trouble I’m having with the plot. They’re like my writing partners.

I don’t know that it’s bad, but I’d find it difficult. I get anxious and end up with writer’s block if I don’t have a pretty solid idea of where the story is going.

Nope. Plenty of pantsers forgo outlines altogether. I personally do not make out a physical outline, but I do mull the plot over in my head for weeks and even months before I start writing, which is sort of like outlining. And I do a ton of research beforehand (one of my favorite things), which gives me a little more confidence despite my lack of a structural outline.


What kind of lists? I’ve seen some character sheets but so much is useless information for my novel, like the height or weight or stuff like that. Do you know any lists that include useful questions you should know about your character?


I make up my own lists, honestly, and it may not always be crucial to the story and may never even make it into the plot, but I find it helps me get to know the characters as real people. Like favorite food, least favorite food, do they like dancing, how do they feel about children, how do they take their tea, etc. They may seem like silly questions, but I’ve learned some very telling things about my characters by exploring their likes and dislikes.

For instance, Grace is a side character who I just recently learned hates cats and mushrooms. Not important to the story, but it makes her more than just a prostitute who helps the main character get information. It make her a real person with interests and feelings that go beyond her occupation and place as a minor character. And that makes it easier for me to write her, which I hope makes her a more realistic and relatable character to my readers.


I suppose that’s true :thinking: I’ve never really implemented information into a story from character sheets.


Yeah, I don’t think you need to. It’s just a way to make the characters real to you. And then you never know, it may all of a suddenly slip into the character’s dialogue or something. I’ve had that happen, too. I just like to treat my characters like real people. I figure if I’m attached to them, there’s a good chance my readers will be, too. And the only way for me to get an attachment to real or fictional people is to get to know them.

Also, it’s fun. Or I think it is. With all I’ve come to know about Booker, one of my main characters, I now view him as a son. Like, seriously, I swell with pride over his accomplishments and fawn over him like a mother.


In a story I worked on during April’s NaNoWriMo, I wanted my character to be crazy, but not the obvious laughing-like-a-maniac. I wanted it to be subtle, and make him an untrustworty narrator. Didn’t quite work out. :thinking: So maybe I do need to make my characters more real to me.

Aw that’s so cute!


So when you say “crazy,” do you mean someone with a mental illness? If so, I highly recommend doing a lot of research on the specific disorder/illness you intend for him to have or that you’re going to base his off of. There are a lot, and they’re all very different and affect people in different ways. My main character has a hallucinatory mental disorder loosely based off of a real one (it’s a fictional world based off of Victorian England, so I took some liberties), so I understand how it can be a struggle to try and get it right. Just remember that his mental illness is not his personality. Don’t let him just be known as “the crazy guy.” Give him depth. I’m always worrying whether or not I’m doing it right, so it can be tough.


That’s the thing I’m not sure what type of mental illness and background to give him. I always see in books they lost their parents or their parents were abusive and I don’t want stuff like that. Maybe I’ll make his parents have a hereditary mental illness. :thinking:
But again, I don’t want the the symptoms to be in-your-face. I want to raise suspicion. Because they say he commited a murder, he refuses. That’s pretty straight-forward. I want to put the benefit of the doubt that he did murder someone while he was in a daze. He won’t be in a daze again until the “climax” of the novel so… what subtle hints of being mentally unstable can I add to that? Also my current ending is that it’s a conspiracy against him. So in the end of the day, as mentally unstable as he may be, he wouldn’t kill anyone.


The hints will completely depend on the illness. So I’d pick either a specific mental illness or create one based off of a real one. You don’t have to come out and say, “He has X disorder.” But having done research on it, you’ll better know how to subtlety include it in the story.

Research is great. Again, it’s one of my favorite parts of writing.


I don’t think research is as fun for me xD


It doesn’t always seem like fun at first (sometimes it seems daunting), but once you get into it, you may find you love it. Heck, it’s how I became utterly obsessed with 19th century medicine and surgery. Before researching it for my series? I never would’ve given the subject a second glance. Now? My friends are tired of me cuz I won’t shut up about Joseph Lister :rofl:


I certainly don’t expect 19th century medicine is interesting either xD


Ha, yeah, I also just have weird (often morbid) obsessions, soooo…


The idea is the seed of the story.

The original idea can be any size. For example, it might be a character, a setting, a question, or an action. But, to be useful to move to the next step of writing the story (especially if planning ahead), the idea has to be able to be stated as a premise. In other words, it should be in the form of a sentence that that relates a plot.

Even a small seed of an idea can be built upon to get to that story premise. For example, let’s say that the idea was just “running”. Think about titles that could have started from a similar seed: The Night Runner, The Running Man, Running on Empty. So, using this example, we might ask “Who is running?” and “Why are they running?”

A political prisoner runs a race to win his freedom. An amputee charity marathon trainee runs away from a serial killer. A genetically engineered dinosaur runs away from an erupting volcano.

Even these can be built upon to answer more questions about the premise, like where or how: A political prisoner living under a dystopian regime is forced to run a televised race that promises freedom to the sole finisher.

Good is subjective, but basically, the premise is good if the author thinks: I can work with that!" If the author is genuinely interested, it’s likely someone else will also be.

To start a novel, an author just needs some seed of inspiration. So, yes, even though I said form a premise above, there are such things as free writing and discovery writing. In free writing, the author might start with a blank page/screen and not have their idea yet, but let the first thing that pops into mind be their seed. In discovery writing, there may already be some seed or even a premise, but nothing more must be planned out before writing begins. Whether these are effective methods highly depends on the author and how they tend to perceive and process information. We’re all different and need to find what works for us.

Oulining is a planning or organizational tool to arrange ideas (like a plot) into main point and subordinate points. It’s basically a nested list that gives a rough sketch of the scope of something.

It may seem odd that it’s called outline. It’s probably called so because it gives the rough shape of a thing like an outline, but one could also look at an outline as being like an armature or skeleton that will be later fleshed out with additional information. IDK words are weird.

It’s not necessary to outline before writing a novel, because as I indicated above discovery writing is one type of process that doesn’t require an outline. But, if someone is new to writing, I would recommend they try an outline to see if it is something that will work for them.

How one outlines may be getting out of the scope of the questions in this thread, because to answer, I’d have to get more into what story structure is and how there are different (but all useful if they work for an author) processes for building the premise out into a fuller structure. The way I would work if I were to use Snowflake method, for example, is not necessarily the way I would work if I knew I was plotting my arch plot chronologically.

But basically, main points are listed. These may or may not be the who, what, why, where, and how of the premise. then, supporting details for those points are nested under those levels of the outline.

Probably if one works in a word processor or specific writing software, there’s an outline view built in to help with this. (Though some writers may actually prefer a simple text editor or even to handwrite with pen and paper.)


Oh I really liked your explanations!

How does that outline built in the software look like?


I’m sure most people have seen an outline. The traditional style I learned used roman numberals for the top level list, then uppercase latin alphabet letters, then lowercase roman, then lowercase latin letters, etc.

I. Chapter One
A. Scene One
B. Scene Two
II. Chapter Two

But, today, depending
on software, it might literally be a collapsible series of nested lists. Like, in Word, the chapter headings I use will have the (+) indicating they have nested information that can be collapsed/expanded and the lower level lines are just bulleted.

Chapter One

  • Scene One

Chapter Two

  • Scene One

The main thing is that the user visually can distinguish between the hierarchy of information, though use of indenting or differing symbols.


I see :thinking: My scenes are always so tiny that I’m thinking of combining my five chapters to like… two or something.