Outlining my book

Keeping the story on track

When I started my book, Deadlock, I just sat down and started writing. After juggling it around in my head for almost twenty years I thought I knew the whole story. Was I wrong.

I had the first couple of chapters down when I realized I was missing some things. I had the beginning, the end and some bits of the middle. That’s when I went from a pantser to a plotter.

This might not be new to most of you, but for those who don’t know, a pantser is someone who writes their stories with no plan or outline. They fly by the seat of their pants. There are a lot of successful writers who do this. Stephen King is probably the most well known of them. He’s also notorious for having endings that don’t do so well. But he’s him and I’m not criticizing.

On the other hand we have the plotters. Writing an outline so they know where they want the story to go. This helps keep the work moving. No need to stop and wonder what comes next. It’s already figured out.

I was on chapter four when I realized I needed an outline. It helped me connect the beginning to the middle and the middle to the end. I’m sure if I tried to plow through the story without an outline I would have given up. In my notebook I wrote out a short description of where I wanted the chapter to go. It helped me to see the way the story was flowing and kept me from wandering.

I’ve refined my outlining a bit. Here’s how I do it now:

⁃ I take a piece of 8.5×11 paper and cut it in half (8.5×5.5)

⁃ At the top of the first few I’ll write the chapter number then write down what happens in bullet points. I’ll do this with the middle and the end too.

⁃ The rest I won’t give a chapter number to. This way, when I’m done, I’ll read it like a book and if one of the chapters doesn’t fit I can shuffle it around until it does. Or I can toss it out completely.

⁃ Each chapter outline usually contains 4 to 6 pages. The middle and last chapter outlines of my new book is 10-12 pages.

Now all I have to do is pull out each chapter outline and type out the story. I read somewhere that John Grisham won’t start writing until he has a complete outline. That’s what I want to do this time around. I’m hoping this will allow me to get the book written faster. Deadlock took two years from start to finish. I want my next book to take half the time.

I’m sure once I get to this point next year my outlining will be even more refined. Maybe I can get two books a year. So, that’s how I do it. I’d love to know how everyone else outlines, or if you don’t. Leave your outlining tips in the comments.

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