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Outlining Tip #6 Use Color!

Today’s outlining tip? Use color!

Use Color !!!

•Outlines are great visual aids
•Enhanced by color
•Assign a color to like items
Red herrings are red
Romantic encounters are pink
Setting/senses are blue
Work or school is green
–Basic story development is black

Now that you have some ideas about what will go into your outline, consider using colors to increase the impact.

With color, outlines become a word graph.

Art by Harlequin 2013

Art by Harlequin 2013

Colorful Cozy Outline

Pulled from Chapter Ten: Murder by the Seaside outline

Run in w/high school soul mate/ murder suspect
–Establish depth of their familiarity and complexity of this relationship’s new dynamic
Parents arrive to take care of her
–Clean her home, cleanse her aura, driver her nuts
New day: Coffee, sunlight, refresh setting
New love interest got a lead on the case. Wants to help her. Plans to stick around town.
Chase new lead, refresh setting, garner new intel on victim’s business partner, plan a second visit to see him
•Heading home. Stopped by impromptu counseling session on sidewalk.
•Enters apartment: Kidnapped.

This is a reduced detail version of a chapter from my cozy. I thought an example would help make sense of my thoughts. Sometimes a picture is better than a thousand words or so I hear.

That’s all for today. I hope your outlines are beefing up to look like detailed synopses. Which is another great use for outlines! Many writers loathe synopsis writing. Well, if you have a well developed outline, you can use it as a quick reference guide to writing your synopsis. Boom! Another winning reason to outline :)

Outlining a Novel: Post #5

As you might know, I like writing suspense and I love cozy mysteries, so this first suggestion today comes directly from my experience weaving a plot with twists. These suggestions might not fit everyone’s current project, but they impact me greatly, so I’m adding them to my posts on outlining. As with most advice I’ve heard in this industry, if you think about it a bit, you might find a way to use it for your benefit. Anyway….here we go.

Red Herrings

•Mystery Writers
•Red herrings are characters put in place to lead the reader and sleuth astray & keep the investigation in motion
•Shoot for a minimum of 5 red herrings
–Think of the predictable pattern of your favorite crime show
Red herrings are the suspects who look good for the crime, but fall through when the reader learns more. Red herrings make stories more exciting for readers and lets them get involved in the investigation, learning as your MC learns. Red herrings are a great tool. Add them to your outline so you don’t forget to sprinkle hem throughout the manuscript.
Think of your favorite cop show. There’s a pattern. They find a man holding a knife over a body, but he’s not the killer. He’s her boss. He says it’s her abusive husband. Husband says yeah, he hits her but he didn’t kill her. He hits her because she’s a trollop, ask her boyfriend. GO ask boyfriend – who has a record of violence, too, but he was in jail for the night on a drunk and disorderly. New clue turns up, boss’ alibi falls through. Boom. It was the boss all along. Use your outline to spread the herrings out leaving room for the MC’s life and investigative process in between.
While I’m on topics directly relevant to crime fiction, but loosely transferable to other genres, let’s talk about foreshadowing!
Clues & Foreshadowing
•Mysteries & crime fiction
•All genres
–Use foreshadowing to hint at what is to come
–Put pieces into place that readers will snap together later
–Use strategically to engage the reader

Clues/foreshadowing isn’t just for crime fiction.  You might mention the hero in your romance is deathly afraid of height and 200 pages later he’s forced to climb a rickety structure to save his heroine. OR in a YA suspense, something in a nightmare is mentioned early on and she sees it in real life many chapters later. Her friends won’t understand her response (unless you tell them) but the reader will understand. Use foreshadowing to invest the reader into the characters. Tell their secrets. Make the revelations of your characters mean more by cluing readers in.


Kindle Holiday Big Deal: DECEIVED $1.99

TEST Art._DECEIVED_SL1000_From now until December 22nd, you can pick up my YA suspense, DECEIVED on Kindle for $1.99. *dies*

Kindle Holiday Big Deal: DECEIVED by Julie Anne Lindsey

About the Book:

Ever since she could remember, Elle has had to hop from town to town to keep up with her dad’s demanding career as a corporate insurance agent. Each time, a reoccurring nightmare followed her wherever she went – until the day that the frightening figures haunting her at night became all too real. When news of a serial killer spreads throughout her new school, Elle worries that the Reaper has been leaving her his calling card in the form of cigarette butts on her doormat and an unusual ribbon in her locker. With the help of Brian, a boy she meets at a flea market, she discovers that this isn’t her first encounter with the murderer and that her father has been concealing her true identity for the past twelve years. But despite her father’s desperate attempts to protect her, Elle still comes face to face with the darkness she has been running from her whole life. Trapped in the woods and with help hundreds of miles away, will Elle be able to confront the Reaper and reclaim the life she lost?

From Publishers Weekly

“Lindsey’s . . . layered depiction of events . . . creates a suspenseful and haunting atmosphere of uncertainty and the possibility of lurking madness . . . A dramatic finale draws together the plot’s disparate elements.” –Publishers Weekly


“Ms. Lindsey crafts an exquisite tale that kicked my adrenaline up with every turn of the page. Deceived is stunning and more than a little scary. From the first page, I had to know what happens next, while at the same time, I had to know what happened before. As Elle’s life unravels, the reader will feel just as raw and betrayed as she does.” –Gwen Hayes, author of Falling Under

“Outstanding! I fully recommend it . . . Mysterious, lovely, a lot of suspense, romantic, funny and full of action . . . I really liked to give a chance to this book, because it was worth it.” –Fandom’s City

Want to see an amazing teaser trailer? Check out the amazing work of Matt Petrunak, a Kent Sate University student who nailed this book trailer:


YA Giveaway from Uncommon YA: December 1st -8th!

We are a collective of YA authors who have come together to spread the word about the newest, bold, gritty fiction. Our genres include realistic, contemporary, historical, magical realism, and paranormal–with a healthy dose of suspense woven through all of them.


For an early Christmas gift Uncommon YA is offering YOU the chance to choose your prize. Click on the titles below to learn more about each one.
You can add it to your Goodreads shelf while you’re there!
WARNING. It will be a tough choice choosing just one to win!
Sliding on the Edge *NEW RELEASES*


6 people will win their choice of the selected titles.

Thankful for My Amazing Childhood Memories and the Man Who Was There For Them All

Night Fishing

by Me

The evening sun snuggles between mountains on the horizon, casting amber and rose light across the water’s surface. Waves from boats, jet skis and swimming children eases into the lazy ripples of a late summer breeze. Cloaked in muggy heat, crickets and bullfrogs play the score of my childhood. Beside me, fireflies rise from tall grasses in a beautiful reverse cascade blinking the evening away, conjuring the night into existence. A man I knew in his prime hunches crookedly over a little girl, tying tiny feathers onto her near invisible line. Her eager face stares into his watery blue eyes, not caring about the process he explains in the animated voice of a grandfather.

He smells of marshmallows and rain, Old Spice and Copenhagen. I know because I was the small child in his lap many years ago. I, too, ate his marshmallow bait, forcing him to carry feather flies and pack his former bait in neat plastic bags as a snack for me instead of the trout.

The little girl stands, tossing braided pigtails over her shoulders and stuffing the last marshmallow between pink rosebud lips. Her gum boots are camouflage, an enchanting addition to the frilly pink sundress and bows dancing in the wind. With the flip of her dimpled four-year-old wrist, the little pole points to the water and yards of clear line sail into the night, her spotted feather bait seeking a fish hungry enough to trust her lie.

Pride wells on the man’s face and his easy smile chases away the wrinkles and years separating the little girl and me.

“She’s just like you were,” he says over her tiny head, as he struggles to stand on aged legs. He braces a soft palm against the rough bark of our willow tree, seeking a better view of my daughter’s hard work. I nod, blink back tears and swallow hard with an emotion thickened throat.

“Thanks Daddy,” I croak, half embarrassed by the emotional tidal wave brought on by a few fireflies and a handful of marshmallows.

He waves me off, refusing to join in my tears. Instead, he claps when she squeals, reeling wildly at the water’s edge. An enthusiastic catfish has taken interest in her silly feather fly and her grandpa helps her bring the catch to shore. He looks at me as if I’m somehow the one responsible.

“You did real good, darlin’,” he coos into the night’s dim light, and I’m pretty sure the words were meant for us both.


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