Tag Archives: WIP

Don’t Tell Anyone, But Outlining is Secretly Awesome

Road Map

Outlines. Love them or hate them, they’re pretty much a staple of the writing life. You can’t wander through the verdant fields of writing advice for five minutes without tripping over someone espousing the marvellousness and wonderifity of outlining. For those of us who self-identify as ‘Pantsers’, it can feel a bit like being bludgeoned over the head with a blunt trout.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve waxed loquacious about outlines more than once.

It all started back in May 2011, when I blogged about how writing is like an episode of children’s show Banana’s in Pjyamas. In this post, I said:

Once you have your outline, and you begin to write, it’s easy to get so fixated on following your outline that you don’t even notice what’s going on in your story. And when your characters start wanting to do things that you haven’t planned, you react by trying to force them back into the outline you’ve prepared.

But then in August 2011, when writing a post about overcoming Writer’s Block, I recommended writing an outline if you’re stuck on what should happen next in the story:

If you haven’t written an outline, write one. Interview your characters. Make notes. Design the history of the world. Whatever you need to get you back on track.

Admittedly it wasn’t a glowing recommendation, and it was definitely in the realms of “only outline if you absolutely must”, but it was a vast change from the earlier Outlines Are Rubbish! post.

Only a month later, in September of 2011, I wrote about how writing is like doing a jigsaw (and vice versa) and thawed out a little more on the idea of outlines:

Regardless of whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, have a plan. Maybe it’s a 100-page outline. Maybe it’s a “brief history of the world” in 50,000 words. Maybe it’s a series of index cards, or notes in Scrivener (or another writing program), or just a vague plotline in your head and an image of a character or scene. It doesn’t matter. Choose the plan that works for you, but make sure you have one.

OutlineUntil the unthinkable finally happened in June 2012. I blogged about writing an outline for my WIP. I had caveats. It was an accidental outline. It wasn’t a real outline, because it was actually only a list of plot points.

Then two interesting things happened.

Thing the First

I went back to writing my novel, and it was… easier. Much easier. Crazy easier. I’d sit down and know what happened next. Not exactly, of course. My not-really-an-outline might say something like: “They escape from bad guys.” And so I’d sit down and let my characters work out how they were going to escape. Often, it surprised me. But at the end of the chapter, my outline had been fulfilled. They had, indeed, escaped from the bad guys. And then I could move on to the next point on the kinda-sorta-an-outline, without having to spend hours (days… weeks… months…) wondering what happened next.

Thing the Second

I finished my manuscript and handed it over to my critique partner. Her feedback was very helpful. Especially when she said: “The second half, after [transition scene] is great. It’s fast-paced, and everything makes sense, and I couldn’t stop turning pages. But the first half feels like you keep repeating the same information over and over, and it’s a bit slow in places.”
Ah-ha! Do you know what happened at that transition scene to change everything? Go on, take a guess.

Yes, that’s the exact point I wrote my accidental outline.

Who knew? Outlines not only make writing easier, they also make it better. Outlines are secretly awesome.

The Intentional OutlineI started a new WIP a few months ago. I managed a grand total of 7,000 words before I realised I needed an outline. So I wrote one.

Yes, I was shocked too.

It wasn’t easy. My Pantser heart rebelled at the idea. It took two weeks of head scratching and swearing and foiled procrastination attempts. But it worked. And every night when I sit down to write, I pull out my outline and check what I’m supposed to be writing, and off I go. Faster than the speed of two hundred startled gazelles! (As my father used to say.)

It’s true. Outlines are secretly awesome.

But don’t tell anyone.

Outlines! Do you like them? Do you use one? 


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The Next Big Thing Tagging Game

Photo by J. Paxon ReyesBack on the 18th of October (Wow — was that really two months ago?), Dave Higgins tagged me in a game of Author Tag known as The Next Big Thing.

This “game” is designed to give writers heart palpitations as they try to figure out how to make the first draft of their novel sound entertaining and appealing to the masses, whilst simultaneously not giving away too many details — just in case the details change, or the story sucks, or the  writer decides to throw the whole project into the electronic paper shredder where it deserves to be because even though it’s a first draft it’s not nearly as awesome as that book that I read that one time and anyway I’m a writer and occasionally I need to wallow in self-pity and my own sense of worthlessness before I get over it and decide that I’m the greatest writer who ever lived and all others are second or worse and whatever happened to that awesome novel that I was working on anyway, and WHO TURNED ON THE SHREDDER?!

Oh. Excuse me.

What I meant to say was that the “game” is designed to give writers a chance to talk about their current WiP. (Work in Progress for those non-writer types who haven’t picked up in the lingo.)

Over the last two months, I’ve debated whether to participate. (If it’s not clear why it’s been a difficult decision, please refer again to the second paragraph of this post.) And then last week I was tagged for a second time, this time by Kelly Johnson of My Countless Lives. And I decided to throw caution to the wind and play along.

Because peer pressure.

The Next Big Thing

The rules:

  1. Give credit to the person who tagged you. (Thanks again, Dave and Kelly!)
  2. Explain the rules. (Done.)
  3. Answer the ten questions about your current WiP. (By the time this meme reached Kelly, she was down to four questions. I have revived the other six via Dave’s blog.)
  4. Tag five other writers to participate in this extremely prolific and probably annoying meme.

1. What is the working title of your book?


Although, in all fairness, I should advise that there’s only about a 5% chance this will be the title when I finish writing it. The theme has changed fairly significantly since I first set fingers to keyboard.

2. Where did the idea come from for your book?

The idea for this book sprang out of a single sentence that wound its way through my subconscious and wouldn’t let go: ‘I should have left town when the goblins stole my keys.’

This sentence doesn’t actually appear in the novel, but it got me thinking about goblins and magic and what happens when people of different magical races find themselves entwined in a fairy tale, each drawn their by their curiosity.

3. What genre does the book fall under?

Urban Fantasy.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?

Rather than the names of characters and actors, allow me to treat you to a visual representation of the cast of the movie of the book.

(There is one other character, but I’m afraid he will have to be done with CGI.)

5. What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

When Michael Storm vows to save a twelve-year-old girl from the Sleeping Beauty Curse, he will need more than his fledgling rune-magic to survive the fury of the faery court.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My goal is an agent and traditional publisher. But before that, my goal is to finish the damn book!

7. How long did it take you to finish the first draft of your manuscript?

So far? I’ve been working on this novel for just over a year. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the first draft at the moment. I’m hoping the last third is quicker than the previous two.

8. What other books would you compare this book to within your genre?

I’d say this would appeal to readers who like Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, M.L.N. Hanover’s Black Sun’s Daughter series, and (although I hold my breath when I say this) Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My husband. The sentence I mentioned in question two above turned into the first line of a short story. That story introduced two of the main players in this novel, as well as the world in which they live. My husband’s enthusiasm for the world and the characters inspired me to write more about them.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Forget vampires, werewolves and zombies. This book is packed full of faeries, goblins, trolls, sprites, and other magical races. Plus there’s Runes, Spells, Curses, Rainbows, Venomous creatures, Heroism, Love, Danger and Betrayal. What more could you want?

Time to play tag:

I’m not a big fan of chain blog posts, so I’m hesitant to put pressure on anyone else to continue this meme. Nonetheless, I’d be interested in hearing the answers to these questions from some of my favourite writing bloggers. So please participate if you’re inclined, ignore me if you’d prefer, or complain about chain blogs in the comments if it will make you feel better. The choice is yours (in alphabetical order, because that’s just how I roll):

Tag, you’re it!


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The Lucky 7 Meme

Apparently this meme has been around for a while, but I only just came across it. It’s a writing meme (so I apologise to all the non-writers out there), and is basically a chance to share a random excerpt of your current WIP (Work In Progress).

I was tagged in a Lucky 7 Meme post by Ben Trube, and enjoyed the excerpt that he posted. So, in the spirit of fun, I decided to have a look at my own WIP and see if I had anything worth posting.

The challenge is pretty simple:

  1. Go to the 7th or 77th page of your WIP.
  2. Go to the 7th line of the page.
  3. Copy the next 7 paragraphs (exactly as typed).
  4. Tag 7 other authors and let them know they’re it.

Well, as I said, I had a look at my WIP and it turns out that page 77 is a pretty interesting one. So, here goes:

Claws raked my back, effortlessly tearing through jacket, shirt and flesh. The pain barely registered. I just kept yelling and pulled at her hair even harder. She crashed to the floor next to me. I let go of her hair for long enough to clench my fist and slam it into her face.

I missed.

My hand hit the wooden floor and I heard bones break, but felt nothing. Then a hand locked around my neck and claws pressed into my throat.

I blinked away tears and my vision returned. It was blurry and shaky, and only my left eye was working, but it was better than nothing. Blood coated the floor below me, dripping from my face and pooling around my broken fingers and the glass from the shattered vial.

“It’s over, Gothi. Time to die,” Death-Faerie whispered against my ear. Her claws pressed deeper. I hated it, but she was right. I was about to die.


The sound was deafening. The pressure on my throat vanished, and then Death-Faery collapsed to the floor by my side. I looked down. She had a hole in the centre of her forehead. Golden liquid dribbled from the wound.

As for tagging seven authors, please find my list below. Have a look at your own page 77 (or 7) and see if there’s something you’d like to share. (You’re welcome to share in the comment here if you don’t want to put it on your own blog.)

Emerald Barnes

Jim Franklin

Connor Rickett

Kay Hudson

Laura Stanfill

Stephen Watkins

Dan Thompson


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