For today's blog post I wanted to talk all about outlining. Where I've been and where I am now. When I first started writing books about 4 years ago, I did not believe in outlining. I flew by the seat of my pants and hoped for the best. I did have a general sense of my plot and characters, but the details were not known before hand. I quickly realized that this was not a good approach for me. It was really difficult to put words on the page because there was no direction. I knew what I wanted to convey with my story, but I was unable to get there while free-writing. So I started doing some research. I read articles and blog posts and watched tons of YouTube videos about how to outline a book. My first attempt was minimal. I briefly outlined the chapters with a sentence or two, but I still refused to do any character outlining. When I went back to writing I felt a little bit of relief knowing what each chapter would entail, but my characters were all over the place. This went on for a while before I decided to put that manuscript to bed (for now) and worked on something else.
When I started on my epic fantasy series I took a long time developing the characters. I have character sheets for each person and I started out with an Act I, II, III outline method. Again, when I started writing the words flew by initially. I was super excited to work on this book because it had been on my mind for a long time. But then I kept getting stuck. Pretty soon it was like pulling teeth just to get the words on the page. So I went a semi-detailed outline. I printed everything out and kept it in a binder because that is what I had seen other people do on YouTube. However, when inspiration struck and I was ready to write I often left my materials at home while I was at school. I didn't remember exactly what I had down and would end up writing something that was completely off kilter with my original idea, which ultimately became detrimental to my story telling.
Then something happened...
I stopped watching the videos and reading the articles and simply reflected on my own writing process. What makes the most sense for me, my writing style, and my story. Once I was able to do that I realized that using a writing application where all my notes and outlining materials could be in one place. So I now use Scrivener (linked here) for all my writing. This way I can write whenever I want and wherever I want without having to tow around a bunch of different items. I also realized that I like to write a large paragraph outlining the major plot points of the book. From there I work on my main character sheets. Then I am ready to start outlining. I realized that my chapters need to be very detailed during the outlining process. So I not only write what I want to happen, but I also note major conversations that need to be had. Finally, I go back and fill in character sheets for my supporting characters as I write the outline.
This may not work for everyone, but my process is different from what I have seen out there and figured it might be worth sharing.