I had been working on a story about a father who left his wife and eight children for another woman. He goes to live with this other woman, but for some strange reason he wants to maintain a relationship with one of the children, the youngest one, whom they had adopted.
Last night I was panicking because the story wasn't done yet. I had written about 18 pages, but I wasn't feeling any sense of closure. I decided to make an outline for myself. This outline was based on questions and answers. I went along in my story, and whenever the events created a question, I wrote it down.
1. Why does Sam leave his wife and family?
2. How does his wife Sally deal with it?
3. How does the other woman, Vivian, feel about Sally?
4. What does Sam's son think about all the attention he is getting from his father?
...and so on.
When I got to the end, I noticed that very few of these questions had been answered. I had written a lot, but what I wrote was only creating more questions. I realized that I had to answer these questions before I could call the story done.
This directed my writing a little, but when I got to the last paragraph I felt like I had something much more satisfying. I found this new outline format to be pretty helpful, so I'll probably be using it more often.