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Outlining a Novel: Post #4

What else can you put in your outline? Everything! Today we make notes about things easily forgotten when a writer has the main events in focus.

Family & Occupation

•Document the dailies:
–School or office
–Peers and co-workers impact your MC too
–Family is relentless & we are obligated
–Add stress and flavor to enrich the MC’s life by connecting readers in ways they can relate
–Grandma’s 80th birthday, little sister’s recital etc

Remember, everyone’s got to eat.





Family and occupation. It’s easy to get immersed in the main plot arc and forget your MC doesn’t live in a void. His or her life is still happening around them. Add reminders in your outline to include a scene or at least a phone call with someone from work, a friend or family member. Readers relate to juggling all those things. Your MC should too. Those cutie pies above are my kids. In the picture on the left, that was what they looked like when I first typed “How to write a book” into Google. The picture on the right is what they looked like this time last year. A whole lot happens while we’re writing. Don’t forget your characters have the same experience. Life keeps moving forward around them despite whatever they are facing personally. Use your outline to remind yourself to make reference to the people and events in your characters’ lives that impact them. The story doesn’t happen in a vacuum.


•Relatable. Readers understand love relationships. Use this to connect them to your MC
•Nothing complicates things faster than a little well placed chemistry
•If romantic tension plays a role in your novel, add that into your outline
–Main arc: layer in the building tension
–Side plot: pepper in the confusing/conflicting emotions
–Use it to further the story, burden the MC so they can be victorious later
Romance may not be your genre. Romance might not have any relevance to your story, but if it does, even in a remote way, you can plot reminders into the outline. This helps you remember they’re happening. There’s nothing worse than starting a story arc and dropping it. Readers will remember something was unfinished and they won’t love you for it. So, consider a romance thread or your MCs romantic connection, and drop a few bullet points in your outline as reminders to address the romance. Romance is a great way to give your character problems everyone can understand.
More in the next post on outlining. Again, please let me know if you have any questions about how you can use outlining in your novel. I’m here to help!

Outlining a Novel: Post #3

Now that you have an outline set up, fill it in with anything you want to reference as you begin writing. The more details you tell yourself now, the easier words will flow later when time is short.
Cast of Characters
•Establish the major players
•Are they a family? Friends? Neighbors? Strangers?
–Names & physical descriptions
–Personality flaws, attributes
–Their goals

Outlines are a good place to list your characters. You can figure out where the characters need to appear. Some often. Some in key positions only. This can be as simple as “H&H romantic encounter – she pulls away” or Parents arrive and ruin her dinner. You don’t have to write the whole scene, just place thoughts about the manuscript’s flow. Also, you know from those two references that her parents aren’t passive church mice, they ruined her dinner. You know a bit about their personality and their family dynamic in a few words. Also we know the heroine is hesitant about the romance or maybe a tease. Something makes her pull away.


Remind yourself to ad flavor, setting and senses

•Insert a reminder at every chapter heading
•As scenes change, so will the setting
•Incorporate the 5 senses for a rich, well developed scene
–What does your MC see? Visual cues.
–Is it warm or cold? Temperature, weather
–Scent. What’s in the air?
–What can your MC hear? Add background noise for depth
–How does your MC respond to the stimuli?

Use the outline as a reminder of the changes that come with a new scene: new setting, new sensations, new perspective. Add the 5 senses into as many scenes as you can – organically. In other words, don’t force it, but snap the opportunity up if you see it.

Writing as a pantser, in the moment, has its upsides, but barreling forward can sometimes cost you details and require more time in revisions looking for areas to deepen the POV. Make notes in your outline about the senses when you settings change.

Hope some of these outlining tips are inspiring a writer out there. If you have any questions so far, leave me a comment, I’d love to help!

Outlining a Novel: Post #2

   Step One: The Bones

 •Set a goal for final word count.
•Break that into chapters
•Build a framework
•My method:
–I shoot for 80,000 words as a general rule.
–I like short chapters: 8-12 pages, approximately 2500 words/chapter
–This breaks into 28 chapters

Set up the bones. Open a word doc, title it outline and Make a capital I. Type Chapter One. Hit enter and II will appear. Word is smart like that. Now, keep doing that until you have the number of chapter headers you need for your manuscript. Now you have a frame work to work on.

Major Plot & Story Arc

•Chapter 1 is an intro/set up chapter & arguably the most important one of your novel
•Chapter 28 is a recap/wrap up chapter
•Who are your characters?
•Fill in the between chapters
–Major plot twists
–Action scenes / story revelations
–Logical Sequence

Now I fill in what I know. In a romance, you need to introduce hero and heroine in the first chapter, some publishers want them to meet on the opening page. In a mystery you need to find a body in that opening chapter. First chapters are what the whole manuscript hinges on. Agents, editors and readers all agree, if chapter one doesn’t pull them in, the whole ship is sunk.

Start filling in what you know needs to be in the book. You can always move it later with a quick cut and past. At this stage it can feel like a putting a puzzle together, but unlike an actual puzzle, you’re in control of what the picture will look like when you finish.

Why Outline? Post#1

I was recently invited to lead a webinar for LearnSurge on the topic of outlining. The webinar was a success. Afterward, I had a ton of great audience participation and some library requests for the material. It occurred to me this was exactly the kind of thing I like to blog about. I couldn’t figure out how to get the dumb bunny powerpoint to play on the site, so I’m breaking it down into chunks for anyone interested in outlining a novel.

I’m a passionate fan of outlining. I was once a pantser, but no more. I’m sure plenty of you will leave me comments about why your way is better. Cool. Right on. But, for the sake of acknowledging there’s more than one way to tackle a novel, I’m going to write a few posts on how I use outlines to write and why. This is Post One on outlining.


Making time to write is tough, but manageable on most days. You can see my #1 distraction in the background on this picture. Social Media – specifically twitter. I love that there’s always someone out there.

Get all your tools in one place: IE your ideas, get your head around what you need so you can get busy.

We spent a year remodeling our basement and by the time we finished every tool we owned had been transported from the garage to the back room downstairs. There’s nothing worse than your husband hoisting a newly constructed 2×4 frame and asking for the nailgun but it’s not even in the same room.

A few days of outlining – A famous author recently said to me “Why waste all those words when you could be writing?” Well, that goes to show how personal the process is. For him, outlining seemed burdensome, but that’s not how my brain works and no offense to the retired full time writer but I don’t have time to “wing it.”

For me, a couple days of plot prep saves months of lost time staring at the screen between flashes of inspiration or thousands of lost words when I realize something I wrote into the story isn’t working out. There’s nothing worse than highlighting a few thousand words and hitting DELETE.

Use your time wisely—

So, What IS an Outline?

•Outlines are blueprints
•Move the story from convoluted new idea to finished product
•As detailed as you want:
–Bones: basic structure guideline
–Major plot points
–Other key components
–Random details or dialog
Okay, but how will that help you write 80,000 words?
•Provides a guideline
•Sets daily goals
•Saves time
–You know what to write next & where you stopped last
•Eliminate plot holes & underdeveloped plot arcs
•Creates a quick visual overview
•Keeps you writing
Outlining provides a guideline so you can set daily goals. Outlines help you keep track of where you are. I keep my outline open as I write and highlight the bullet points as I get them into the manuscript – which is a confidence boost because I see my progress hour-to-hour or sooner. Knowing where you stopped writing last time is a huge time saver. I used to sit down and reread the previous few pages to get back into the story and wrap my head around where I was starting. Outlines save you those precious minutes.When you complete the outline, read it over start to finish looking for plot holes, abandoned story arcs and places to tighten the story. Those things are infinitely harder to correct in a finished manuscript, not to mention rereading a 10 page outline goes a lot faster than rereading a 300 page manuscript looking for errors.

When you break the story down into outline form, it provides a quick visual of your story. Like a bar chart of a company’s finances instead of reading all the data and concluding at the end, the information is there for you to see at a glance.

For all these reasons, especially to progress charting as you mark off your daily accomplishments, outlines can keep you writing. Momentum can slow if you aren’t feeling like your effort is accumulating.

That’s all for today.  I’ll talk more about outlining in my next post.
How about you? Do you outline?

My Trailer Made it to the International Movie Trailer Festival!

So, remember those brilliant, talented, amazingly fabulous Kent State University students who  made a trailer for my YA suspense, Deceived? Well, that little trailer of awesome has made it into the International Movie Trailer Festival competition. I would love to go back to Kent and hug each of those guys, but since that would seem super creepy, I thought I’d use my blog to brag them up a little. If you haven’t watched the video, definitely check it out. If you love it, I hope you’ll cast your vote and show those guys some love!

You can cast your vote HERE :D  



You can cast your vote HERE :D  

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