Thursday, November 15, 2012

Do You Outline?

When I first began writing my book, my friend and fellow author, Lizzie, kept telling me to outline. I did try to do an outline, but my story was rather complicated and basically I was making it up as I went along. I would try to outline a chapter and by the time I finished writing one, it did not look like my outline at all, so I decided to go without. Now that we have rewritten the book, but it is still based on the same words from my rough draft, we have implemented an outline. Or, at least we are implementing one now.

As we moved along in the edits, we found that there were some inconsistencies along the way. I had recently read an article in my RWA magazine about a woman who wrote a series and the reader who caught her mistakes. I didn't want to be like her. Writing a series you can forget even the smallest details, and later be called on them. So, my sister and I devised a plan, one that seems to be working, and one that is giving me a chance to read the book along the way. I have to say, I am so proud of how the book is turning out!

Yes, this has been a long adventure, but one that is coming to fruition. My goal is, and has always been, to launch a series that when you read it, you cannot tell it was self-published. I want the writing tight and concise. I want the details to take you there, and I want to make sure that when I say a 'black car' that two books later the car is still black, not another color by accident. 

I don't know if this would help an author writing a series, but I would like to share with you our outline in the hope that it will give you ideas when you set up yours.

  • Set up a graph with the characters names, attributes  and personality traits along the top.
  • The side bar will be the chapter numbers. Under the numbers put things like the timeline, such as what day it is, and things like full moon ect...
  • Under each name write what is happening to them in that chapter. 
  • Split the chapter with each scene change and write again under the characters involved in that scene.
  • Make sure to have all characters involved, including a dog for instance.

That is pretty much it. As you create more characters, especially when you move to the next book, you can add them to the graph. When we are finished we will print it out and put it on the wall in front of us so we can see any issue we come up with.

This series has become a large undertaking, but well worth it. I have been reading the book as we implement the information onto the graph, and I have to say, the book sounds awesome! I think you will enjoy it too!

Until next week, I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend. We do have a few guest lined up and I will be working on one of them this weekend. She is a wonderful writer and lives in the UK. I hope you welcome her as you have with my other guests. I have to say, my blog followers are the best!

Don't forget to drop me a comment or question, I love to hear from you!

Love, Lisa


  1. I found my way here via comments on Writania.
    I tried to write an outline with my first book and found that my story went every which way but the way I thought it would.
    I gave up trying to follow my outline in the end and just let the story go where it needed.
    I guess it's all about finding out what works best, although things like keeping the black car, black and all the other details straight does make a huge difference between appearing polished and amateurish.

  2. Hi Fi, thanks for joining us! I hope you end up joining my blog. Thanks for the comment, and yes I agree, it is the difference between professional and amateur, that's for sure. I have read several self-published works, and although some of the published books had errors, it was nothing compared to the SP. I believe that if you want to SP, make it your best so you don't end up being embarrassed in the long run.

  3. Found my way over from a comment on the Passive Voice.

    The first novel I finished (still unpublished) was written entirely without an outline. It was a short novel, clocking in at around 68,000 words (72,000 after some scenes were re-written), and is probably one of my best creations. Having said that, I plan to outline for all of my future works.

    The first novella I published (the first in a trilogy) was initially written without an outline. The first chapter was made from just an idea and went swimmingly. I started the second chapter but got stuck and didn't finish it until 7 months later (I was writing something else at the time that took priority). Once I finished the fourth chapter, I had a good idea of what was going on and went ahead and wrote an outline for the rest of book and both of its sequels. After that, it took no time at all to finish the novella.

    Since writing the second book in the trilogy (in 14 days), I have learned to have an outline. It's very similar to writing the book itself, just with a macro lens instead of a micro one. And it really speeds up the writing process once it's done, too.

    I used to just keep notes in a bookmarked word processor document, but now I use a piece of software called TreeLine (available on Windows, Mac, and Linux). I set up a tree of all of my writing notes with a folder for characters, locations, and books in the series. Then I break everything down as detailed as I want in branches of the tree.

    Just to use your car example, supposing it was a character's car, I would create a note under that character called "Car", in which I would write "Black, beaten-up eighties sedan." Then I would make it a habit to refer to my character notes when writing about a character's property to make sure it's described. I might later add "written off in Book 3, replaced by brand-new silver sedan."

    I may well have to do that now with my own books. Darn perfectionism.

  4. Thanks for your comment Malignantcarp! I appreciate you checking out my site! I agree, outlines do help and I wrote my first novel without one too, the one I am talking about in my story above. Now, it needs it, it became very complicated when explaining the other dimension. We had to make sure it was consistent and now it is sooo much better! I hope you join my blog, I love having authors on here coz they are great for advice, and I need all I can get!