An Outline To Write By

Creating an Outline To Write By

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Before I can Scrivathon*, I’ve got to get ready to write! So let me take you deep into my writing lair so you can peek behind the curtains and see into my process.

As autumn comes into full swing, writers worldwide prepare for NaNoWriMo.  Some people are planners, some people fly by the seat of their pants (pantsers), me? I’m a plantser!

What’s a Plantser?

I do some light-level outlining, but I don’t consider myself bound by these notes.

I did this for FLESH AND INK (which I’m querying! And have an editor lined up, just waiting for schedules to mesh). But, this time, I looked up “Novel Beats” based on advice from a DragonCon panel.

My Process

Step Zero

Now, since I’m writing a sequel, I get to skip a lot of things. I don’t need to design my setting. I don’t need to come up with my characters- physically, personality, skills, backstory. But, if you’re trying to follow these steps, you’ll probably want to have a decent idea of these things so you can figure out where the plot COULD go. What decisions it makes sense for your protagonist to make. What decisions will you antagonist make? Setting and personalities drive the plot.

Step One

I took a spreadsheet and numbered chapters 1-21, with page numbers based on an estimated 15 pages per chapter. Since I’ll be working on the sequel to FLESH AND INK, I figured my chapters and page count should be relatively similar.

Step Two

I researched “Novel Beats”

I ended up on Jami Gold’s Worksheets for Writers. After looking through the different beat sheets, her spreadsheet, based on Jerry Brook’s algorithms, looked pretty straightforward. I downloaded the spreadsheet then plugged in my word count (estimation based on length of my 1st book) to get the following estimates.

This generally follows a 4 act structure. I might end up with a 3 act structure  and an abbreviated denouement, but we’ll see.


Step Three

I filled in one line descriptions of each chapter, paying attention to which chapters have pages that should have beat points. I started off with [the Introduction, the Hook, and establish the major goal]. I ended act 1 with [the antagonist’s forces come fully into play, driving home the goal, stakes, and obstacles…]

I already had a few goalposts in my head, based on Lilyen’s external goals. (I’ll be thinking about ways to incorporate internal ones as well (family/relationships)). For the most part, this was a case of “hmm, to get to X, she’ll need to do Y and Z.”

What about the chapters where I knew the next event, but the beat suggested it should wait?

She’s not the only character! There’s a strong chance this book may end up having 2 regular POVs.

Right now, these are the logical steps to get where I need her. But, books don’t always work like that–characters and the world contain tidbits that you never see coming. Until they matter.

I can’t share all of it with you, some of it gives away the ending of FLESH AND INK, but here are 3 examples.

  • My shortest chapter description:
    • “Healing (pgs 196-210)”
  • My longest chapter description:
    • “[X1] seek refuge from [X2], [X3] attack/kill [X1a], capture [X1b], [X2] rages, trapped and convert. (pgs 15-30)” [nouns redacted to prevent spoilers]
  • My least helpful description:
    • “Denouement” – Yeps. Not quite sure how I’m gonna end this sucker. Luckily, I’m highly unlikely to hit 89,000 words in November, so will take my cues from what I write and figure it out from there.


I finished my outline in about 2 hours and 131 words.

Any other plantsers out there? How do you prepare?


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A.Y. Chao || Gurpreet Sihat || Hoda Agharazi || Deborah Crossland Maroulis || Morgan Hazelwood || Dante Medema || Miranda Burski || Maria Guglielmo || K.J. Harrowick || Rochelle Karina || Adele Buck



Will You Read To Me?


Reading Time

Will You Read Me My Story?

One of the big things you hear when people talk about editing best practices is reading the pages aloud. Either reading to yourself or getting software to read it to you.

On this 3rd round of edits, I’ve finally started to fully embrace this advice. Instead of just mumbling along to myself, I find when someone/thing else reads it to me, I don’t skim or assume what the words say as much. I can hear the awkward wording, the repeated phrases.

It’s taken me quite a bit of trial and error, but I’ve got a system now.

The voices for all the options are like a GPS, not always catching nuances and having issues with homophones (words that sound the same). For example, “lead” always sounds like the metal instead of guiding someone somewhere.


I tried using Windows Narrator, but it didn’t like google docs, I didn’t have headphones for my computer, and it was annoying having to c/p into a text editor. I’ve heard MS Word will read to you, but I don’t have Office.

IPad Mini:
a – I tried using VoiceOver on my iPad mini. Listening there and editing on my PC. But the accessibility feature means you need to double-tap after selecting anything and it would only do line-by-line with me tapping to advance. The VoiceOver was not very well tested. It caused gDocs to crash regularly on iPad ( b – What I’m using now is ‘Speak Selection’ on my iPad mini, while making the edits on my PC. They both sync real-time. gDocs has not crashed and saves my spot in the document after I put it away for the night. Sometimes, it does have to wait for the whole document to reload before it will start reading.

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility

Tap Speak Selection
 from the list at the top of the screen

Adjust the Speaking Rate
 (Choose a setting near the (s)lower end)

I also downloaded the English (South America) dialect, because I wanted to. I’m definitely enjoying it. They’ve got US, Australia, UK, Ireland, and South America.

I highlight the text I want it to read, then tap ‘Speak’, when the options Copy/Select All/Cut/Speak/Etc appear. I find for editing, if I do more than a paragraph or 2, I’ll get lost doing edits while it keeps going.