Thursday, May 10, 2012


I think I’ve blogged before about outlining my first book, The Groom Wore Blue Suede Shoes.  I took twelve sheets of typing paper and each signified a chapter.  Then I recorded everything I wanted to happen in each chapter. That book was published by Silhouette Romance and I never, ever outlined a book again. And I never sold another book either. I’ve written (or tried to write) six or eight books since then--but only completed three. And believe me when I say a couple of those completed books have plot holes that would swallow a publishing house.

The point is, I failed because I became a pantser. My bad!
So here’s the deal: OUTLINE! If you’re having problems completing a project, or creating scenes that happen in a logical way or spotting holes and inconsistencies, try OUTLINING!

My latest project--a 25,000+ word novella--is outlined in detail. Granted, I was so incredibly inspired by the premise of this story that I had no trouble writing a detailed synopsis--nine pages. Then I turned those nine pages into a detailed outline. Ten chapters. The words are flowing. I write each day. I know where I’m going. And my outline doesn’t mean I’m locked into anything. In fact, chapters one and two were combined immediately and I'm a little surprised at a couple of scenes that weren't planned. Don't feel as thought your hands are tied or your creativity stifled, things can and will change as the characters evolve and reveal themselves. I'm excited because nothing is slowing me down. I love my characters and they love me. I think they love me because I outlined and got to know them a little before I slapped them in their respective scenes and chapters.

We all know and agree there’s no right or wrong way to write a book. We have to choose the method that works for us. No matter if it’s sitting down and slinging word after word like a crazy person out of control, or if it’s confidently and safely glancing over at a detailed outline that lights the blurry path.

Do what works for you, but if you’re having problems and can't finish a book  . . . OUTLINE!

Remember: People who get off to a great start have better success. And I think you can take that to the bank.

Do you outline or do you hit the ground running?


KarenG said...

I found this post very interesting. I do a little of both. I hit the ground running but before I get too far in I have a pretty clear idea where I'm going. While revising I go back and outline to make sure the thing all makes sense.

Li said...

I often outline simply because I've found that "great ideas" tend to disappear pretty quickly if I don't get them down on paper and follow through :-)

Angie said...

Great advice, Jess, as always! I've never written anything long enough to require an outline.

Linda Todd said...

I outlined roughly on 3x5 cards for Wild Justice. There's no way I could sit down and just start writing a novel without knowing where I'm going. I can wing it with the short stuff, however.

Tonja said...

I do plan like to plan things out. It also helps when life gets in the way and I have to set it aside for a while. The plan makes it easy to pick up where I left off. It's when I don't stick to the plan that it gets difficult. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Outlines are certainly an effective way to deal with problems, or potential problems, up front.