Honing the Outlining Process

Before beginning to write and learn, I had no idea what a pantser was. For my first published short story, I was a total pantser. I came up with an idea, had a vague idea of my characters and wrote their story as it came to me.

Calendar Girl Cover

Calendar Girl Cover

For a short story, less than 8000 words, the editing process was arduous. I was extremely lucky that Amira Press even took the chance on Calendar Girl. I literally typed as Nia and Connor spoke.

Feeling adventurous, I ventured into a longer work.  Lena and Ethan, Music for Her Soul,  still spoke to me but there were missing spots in the story and I began to develop my own system of outlining.

The character bio – How old? Where are they from? What is their relationship like with their families? Where do they work? What are their hobbies? I even include things like their senior prom experience and who they voted for in the last presidential election. This is especially helpful when I’m writing dialogue.

The story idea – I write a paragraph or two which basically tells the whole story.

The plot outline – I used to write plays and think in terms of acts. So I outline Act I, Act II, Act III, etc…

Research – What do I need to complete all these things? Job notes? Housing? Airline Schedules? What I think I need I collect and store.

The first draft – This is part of my outlining process. I begin to add words and dialogue and setting to the plot outline. The hardest part about the first draft is not to edit myself and just let the characters speak. The work is for later.

Rewriting and Editing – This is the fleshing out and corrective process. Actually my least favorite part, but I’ve had some good moments.

DEJAVUFinalI used this process with Deja Vu.

With an additional writing class which I thought was wonderful, I’m adding another step between first draft and rewriting. I’m calling it the questioning period. I’m going scene by scene and asking myself if this is the most important focus of the character at that moment and making sure the reader knows this as well.

For instance, I walked into my office this morning and saw a bright pink sticky note in curvy writing on my monitor at work this morning. That caught my attention. I had a class to teach in ten minutes, I hadn’t arrived as early as I should have and the note could only be from my boss. It wasn’t until later in the day that I noticed the six files crammed into the corner of my desk and the light blinking on my phone that I had messages.

I want my readers to be in that moment with my characters and I’m trying out my new technique in my WIP – wish me luck!

~Happy Writing

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