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September 7, 2011

I’ve talked a little about this before but I think it’s worth going into a bit more detail. There are many ways to go about writing your story. A popular method is to outline the story, then fill in the blanks. There is a course one of our Henderson Writer’s Group members, Gregory Kompes mentioned a few years ago. It is called, Write Your Novel in 20 Minutes. This course is a perfect example of outlining the entire book first. While that works for some people, it doesn’t for me. I’ll go into my method a little later.

There are many advantages to outlining a book. You can lay down the plot, see it clearly and fill in all the holes. That way you have it all organized and ready to go. Then all you have to do is write to the outline and voila! Instant novel. It makes the writing process more efficient and can avoid many pitfalls brought on by insufficient planning and lack of research.

As I’ve said before, when I set about to write a novel, I only have two steps in planning. Number one is, “Where do I start?” Number two is “Where do I end?” Everything else in-between is a total surprise. My creative process is an adventure, it’s a fantasy trip, it’s an escape from the realities of life. To me, writing is like watching a movie as it’s being created. There are bound to be pitfalls with this for some writers. It won’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

When I start out to write a novel, I NEVER outline it, I NEVER plan out each chapter, and I NEVER know exactly what’s going to take place. Part of the fun is just letting it flow. That’s my creative process. Does it create problems? For me it doesn’t. I’ve had to eliminate chapters here and there, take out an extraneous story line vector, but never anything major.

When it comes to research, I cross those bridges when I come to them. Something may inspire me to go one way or the other. If I reach a bridge I can’t cross, I diverge to a bridge I can cross. With an outline, a writer can see these bridges before they get there, so in that case, an outline saves a lot of grief. However, for me, I find these predicaments nothing but minor divergences. There is still that element of total surprise as the story unfolds.

As for quantity, in a typical day, I will write 2,000 to 3,000 words. I have done as much as 5,000 words in a day, especially when I have to flesh out an idea and don’t want to lose my train of thought. It is when the rules slow me down too much that I have to throw them aside and get the idea down on the computer. As an example, I wrote my first fantasy novel, Meleena’s Adventures – Treasure of the Umbrunna (originally called Slab) in 29 days. It is short for a fantasy, 79,000 words, but at least I wasn’t slowed down by research. I incorporated as much of what I’ve learned as I could, and think I did pretty well. Later, during the editing process, I found areas that required some research. That is when I addressed those details, not interrupting the original thought stream.

Meleena’s Adventures was written from the single POV of the main character. It is third person, as I hate writing first person. I decided to keep things simple. I mainly had to watch out for omniscient POV and author intrusion. I didn’t get into anyone else’s head until the very last chapter. That sped things up. I haven’t seen it done by others that often, at least in 3rd person.

What works for me may not for anyone else. If I had to plan out each chapter, worry about each word, double check my syntax, I’d never get anything done. That would just suck the life out of my inspiration. But that’s just me. I’m presenting it here for you as on way to go.

Happy writing.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2011 4:14 am

    My coauthor and I met on an RP site. When we decided to write a novel, we modified the style. We get on Skype and type paragraphs of dialogue and action back and forth in the RP style we use on sites, save it in a Word file and split it up. She writes the scene from her character’s POV and I write the scene from my character’s. We trade and compare to make sure that while there is overlap, each of the characters interprets a scene differently. In an excerpt that we ended up removing, Leocardo asks Aniela how long she and her boyfriend have been together. Not paying much attention, Aniela hears him ask how long she has known Nathaniel (who she is good friends with and doesn’t realize Leo thinks she’s dating.) She replies with “when I was four.” Her side of the dialogue had the question and answer the way she heard it, and his had what he actually asked including his surprise thinking she was taking childhood sweethearts too far.

    Chapters where the characters do not interact can be written separately, but are designed to line up to cover the same time period on each side. Sometimes they go to the same event but do not interact, or in the same room notice completely different things. One of the inspirations for this style of writing was Hamlet read alongside Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

    -Eliabeth Hawthorne

    • September 8, 2011 2:43 am


      Welcome to my site! That is a very interesting way of writing, by collaboration. I’m not sure I could do it that way, but it seems to work for you two. It makes me wonder how my buds Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child write their books together. They have a process. I’ve read a bit about it somewhere but can’t remember exactly how they do it. I’ve never tried.

      Glad this works for you. Have you been published yet?

      Thanks for the input!


      • September 8, 2011 9:59 pm

        The novel is still in it’s final revision stage before it goes to agents, but Ermi publishes a magazine that we both have individual pieces in. The archives are found at the bottom of our About page: and she welcomes new submissions if you’re ever interested.


  2. Peggy West permalink
    September 7, 2011 9:19 pm

    I don’t write an outline either. Instead, I freewrite for a few months and then look at what’s emerging. I am completely impressed by outlines and knowing ahead of time what the impending book is about but I can’t change my style or approach.

    • September 8, 2011 2:45 am


      First off, welcome to my web site! And, second, I’m completely with you on that. I just can’t work from an outline. It would be like doing a college essay for me instead of writing for fun.

      We write alike.



  3. Maggie Crosby permalink
    September 7, 2011 10:22 pm

    Thank you, Fred.
    I’m learning a lot from you….

    Maggie (Lynn Melcher) Crosby

    • September 8, 2011 2:47 am


      Welcome to my web site! Glad you made it here. My hope is to help other writers in any way I can. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I hope to help you all avoid some of those mistakes in as few words as possible. I used to have a shelf full of books on writing and I don’t think I read more than a few pages of any of them. Maybe I can save you all a few bucks!



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