Let’s talk about outlining for a minute or two. I have been seeing on Facebook a lot of conversation about having inspiration and being able to find inspiration and how some people just don’t get the juices to write very often.
I’m a firm believer that thinking like that is putting limits on yourself. Whether or not you plot or pants your stories and novels, you have to take the time to write. You have to make it a priority. If you don’t, well, it’ll never be a priority and it’ll never happen on a regular basis.
I set a schedule to write almost every day. I’ve done this from pretty much the beginning on my writing career. Currently, I write Monday-Thursday from 3pm to 5pm. Which is not a whole lot of time. I write all day Fridays. I rarely write on Saturday and Sunday as those are dedicated family days; however, if I’m close to finishing a novel. You bet your ass I’m writing on my off days.
I used to wake up every morning at 5am and I would write for 3 hours straight. That was it. Three hours a day, seven days a week was about 21 hours. My goal at that time was to finish three novels a year for publication, and I often achieved that.
Second to my dedicated writing time is outlining. There are hundred million different ways to outline, and you have to find what works for you. I’ve found–for me–that my outlines need to be simple and not overly detailed. If I put too much detail into them, I have zero desire to actually write it because I feel like I’ve written it already.
My current set up is to write 2-3 chapters of a novel and then I’ll finish outlining. Usually I already have some sense of where the story is going to go by that point. I set out each chapter, figure out roughly how many scenes I want in each one, and then I do simple bullet points for each scene. The one I’m writing today looks like this.
1. Morgan goes to St. Louis to look at the crime scene and see the body. She notes the 5 stab marks and the fact that the scene is bloodier and more violent than the last. Killer is escalating. Finds Samantha’s iPad, where they are able to run searches. Find searches for all the murders Morgan is aware of as well as information about Seattle.
2. Morgan spends a lot of time in the office, running the credit cards and anything else she can think of. She searches flight manifests for names. Pax keeps her updated on the trafficking case.
Now, none of what’s in that outline may make sense to anyone other than me, but it makes sense to me, which is what matters. Two simple scenes that will fill one whole chapter approximately 2000-3000 words, so 1500 ish per scene.
That simple. But I have this whole novel (all 33 chapters of it) outlined like this. I just finished outlining Release (Quarter Life #3) yesterday, which has 39 chapters and again, bullet point 1-3 sentence scenes.
I find this gives me enough freedom to mess up my outline but enough to go off so when I’m not feeling it that day, I know where to start. You can outline by character too. If you have one main character or even two, you can literally just outline their development. Start where they are, move into what happens to create conflict and what the character learns from it, then how they use what they’ve learned and up to a pinnacle plot point that then resolves all the pent up issues your character no doubt has.
I tend to write plot driven stories rather than character driven stories, hence the second method I’ve shared of outline is not very useful to me. The most important thing is that you find what works for you. Play around with it. Try something new. I didn’t outline in the beginning. It took me several books to find my method.
Be willing to learn something new, every day, and be willing to invite inspiration to come have a play date. If you don’t send the invitation, inspiration isn’t going to know when and where to show up.