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Getting an idea, once you've practiced idea generation, is the easiest part of writing. Turning the idea into a finished book -- that's the hard part! Creating a plot requires a certain amount of organization. Some writers can simply start at the beginning and write all the way to the end, but most writers find that they need some kind of organizational tool or underlying plot theory to keep their stories coherent, whether they are writing a short picture book or a long, involved novel. There are as many ways to craft a plot as there are writers, and each new project may require a different approach. While some writers of "how to write" books may insist that some particular method is the "right" method, most writers acknowledge that what works for them may not work for others. Outline or no outline? Horror writer Stephen King says that he never works from an outline. Other writers insist that good writing

can't be done without an outline. Even those writers who claim that they never use an outline may in fact have an outline in their heads, holding the structure of the plot in their imagination as they work. Not all of us have that kind of genius, and need some kind of written structure to keep our stories from wobbling out of control. By "outline" we don't necessarily mean the standard Harvard outline that we all learned in English class, with its Roman numeral headers, sub-topics, and all. While the Harvard outline can be extremely valuable in structuring nonfiction, fiction often requires something more flexible. An "outline" can be any kind of visual device that you use to organize your plot. It may be a spider-web-like mind map. It may be a series of storyboards, such as movie directors use. It may be a series of ideas written on index cards or sticky notes and stuck to a wall, where…