Mapping your story saves a ton of time!

Remember how I said I had a story mapping notebook. Some may find this odd, but this is a small trick that has always worked for me when writing.

When it comes to flow and structure, I have a lot of trouble just writing paragraph after paragraph. That kind of writing doesn’t come naturally to me.

So, this is my trick. I outline a story before I write it. Many writers do this. It helps you focus on what you want to write and stick to it throughout the piece.

My outlines are detailed. I decide what each para is going to be and what segues to use.

An example if I were writing a profile of a person:

  • Para 1: Begin with something the person is doing.

  • Para 2: Introduce the person. Compress it in two sentences. The connect will be to a quote by the subject.

  • Para 3: QUOTE. Connect this to a peer’s quote.

And so on.

If this seems time-consuming, let me assure you that it is not. Once I write the outline, the actual writing becomes far easier. There is no hesitation in writing, it just flows.

And yes, I have a separate notebook for it — a large A4 sized ruled notebook. Why large? That way the entire story outline can fit into one page and I won’t miss anything. I even use it to create a thinking map. This is one of those maps where you have one phrase in the middle and several around it, connecting to it.

A thinking map helps you retain the backbone of the piece you’re writing and ensures you include everything that is relevant to it.

Open a nice notebook (always a source of joy for me). Map out your story in detail and watch the words flow.

Written by Sruthi Radhakrishnan, who is a writer at emdash, after a 10-year stint in journalism, who obsesses over little details. She can be found @sruthirk on Twitter.