NOT YOUR USUAL SUSPECTS

A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Sunday, March 1, 2015

I Spy: OUTLINING


Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.


TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...


OUTLINING!

I’m a passionate fan of outlining, especially for novels with extensive world building and plot twists, red herrings and clues. They keep my details in order, remind me of key points and provide a roadmap for my story. If you’re having trouble pacing or plotting your novel, outlining is a great way to get the words flowing again. Personally, I think outlining is the most powerful tool in my writer toolkit. Don’t get me wrong. I still follow the story when it deviates from my outline, but as a girl who’s done it both ways, I have to say a detailed outline will save immeasurable amounts of time among other things.

Here are my favorite things about outlining:

  1. Making time to write is tough. Writers have other things to do, right? Lives. Friends. Family. Fandoms. Actual paying job-gigs. So, we have to make the most of our time at the keyboard. Outlines break the novel into bits, so you can get your head around what you need to write each day. Don’t waste precious time rereading yesterday’s work so you’ll know where to pick up. No more wondering what will go into today’s chapter. With a complete outline, you’ve already done the hard work. You’ve plotted it all and broken things into chapters. Now, mark them off. Delete them if you want. Letter by letter. Number by number. It will be simple to see how far you’ve come and exactly where to start next.

See? You just saved hours! Plus, I love marking things off. Sometimes I make lists just to cross things off. It feels amazing. What writer can’t use a pat on the back?

  1. Outlining gets all your tools in one place: IE your ideas, your time frame, motive and red herrings. When the outline is perfect, you’re ready to write.

  2. No more plot holes and underdeveloped story arcs. Completing an outline will give you the opportunity to review quickly for missing plot points, arcs you started but forgot about, and other writerly disasters. Remember: It take seconds to remedy errors at the outlining stage. Find the same mistake in your manuscript, even in your rough draft, and you’re looking at hours to make it right.

  3. Use color. I color-code my outlines and use them as visual aids when I’m finished. It’s easy to see if the back story scenes (blue) are too clustered or when the romance (pink) runs too thin in one area. Color-coding provides a quick visual of your story.

  4. Voila! Guidelines! Outlines keep you, the writer, moving forward. For example: I try to write a chapter a day. That’s my thing. So, I open my document and my outline, scroll to where I left off and boom! When I’m done with the chapter, I walk away. Guilt free. Which brings me to…

  5. Daily goals. Maybe word count goals discourage you. They flat out freak me out. Don’t even ask me about my Nanowrimo. Just. Uh-uh. Outlines show daily goals in terms of scenes and chapters not words, and I love that. It feels great to finish for the day and not beat myself up for spending such a small amount of time at the keyboard. Hey. I met my goal and I’m going to go watch Netflix.

For me, a couple days of outlining and 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 put into the story isn’t working. There’s nothing worse than highlighting a few thousand words and hitting DELETE.

What do you think? Do you outline?



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FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!

5 comments:

Rita said...

I know when I do outline the writing seems easier. Thanks for this post. It's a good reminder for me.

Cathy Perkins said...

Good post - the story I'm working on now is the first I've written without an outline and it drives me nuts when I stall out with "what happens next?"

Anne Marie Becker said...

Great points, Julie. I try to outline - at least the midpoint, twists, big black moment, etc., so I know what I'm working toward. Unfortunately, a few of my books refuse to speak to me until I write about half of them. Then I sit down and try to outline more, LOL. But I'm a big fan of outlining and tackling the work in tiny, bite-size pieces!

jean harrington said...

Julie, I admire your discipline, controlling the chaos of writing as you do. For me, that's a goal I haven't achieved yet. Still working on it. What I usually do is write an informal outline with no numbers, no chapters, just story flow. That usually takes up through page 80 or so, and then the plot moves along on its own--with lesser and sometimes greater degrees of efficiency. Not exactly rocket science, but a method that keeps me fumbling
onward.

J Wachowski said...

Wow. I wish I could be that organized! Can't do it. I just embrace the fact that I'm going to have to go back and re-write. :)

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