Every writer, whether they are highly experienced or just starting out, typically all start with one basic step, the outline. This outline can be extremely detailed or a skeleton of a list. Writers all do this, whether they intended to or not. Any writer that says they just sit down and write, may already have an outline, albeit in their head. The outline is the backbone structure of what happens when in one’s book. My outlines are typically nothing to be impressed by even by my own standards. Truth. They start out as the basic structure you remember from school.
I had unknowingly determined somewhere that I like the number 13. Why is this relevant to my post on outlines? Well my books are in 13 parts, a Prologue, chapters 1-11, and an Epilogue. Those are my main points in my outline. Each chapter tackles a plot point. That’s the shell of my outline. Each chapter’s plot point is a major overarching idea, then I break it down with some minor points or revelations. That is the way it starts for me anyway. As I go on with some research or fleshing out an idea, the details come. I’ll have notes randomly taken down on scraps of paper or in a notebook that eventually find their way into the outline. What I typically do is generate a book template file. All my chapters are laid out and I typically note my major plot point per chapter.
Once I transfer my outline to my book template, I start writing to the points I noted. Sometimes the chapter doesn’t come together in order. It is kind of like a film or tv show. Sometimes an idea has to work its way out first before I can proceed and sometimes it’s the only thing I have to go on. I have had the experience where a chapter is just a bunch of random conversations and passages that I have to put in order and connect the dots. Then there are times that the chapter goes from start to finish without any divergent tangents.
All I know is that I try my best to plot out the whole book by main objectives before I start. It is nice to know what I am towards. Then there is the review, which to be honest is accompanied by some cursing. The lightbulb I didn’t even realize was not on when I wrote the outline turns on and I realize that the chapter needs a different thread. Heck, this last book, the whole ending changed. That had happened with my first book. I was writing and things were just fine, until I got to the court room scene. I, or rather my characters decided in the course of writing that the killer had to be someone else. It made sense so I didn’t fight it. Again, that’s when the cursing started though. Sometimes the best laid plans get tweaked every now and again. The outline came into play to help me find the right pieces of information that had to be reworked in order to work in the idea of a plot change. So even when they change, outlines are needed bare minimum!