Before The Outline
The first round of research is background material for your story. You may be looking for settings, hidden alleys, a great beach. While an online search, will give you generic information, there's nothing like going to the place of your story.
You will discover details that no amount of online searching will offer.
Find The Surprises
By Nealmarques - Iphone Camera, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25738450
When I went to Ravenna to meet with history scholars at the Ravenna branch of Universitá di Bologna I thought I was on a history search. Between appointments and visiting suggested historical sites, I played the tourist from time to time and wandered. As I was coming home one evening I passed a botanical garden, right in the middle of the city. It was closed.
I returned the next day because I knew that Nikolaos, Argolicus' lifelong tutor, had a passion and deep knowledge of plants. Aside from keeping Argolicus on a rigorous schedule of Greek language practice and basic fighting skills, his knowledge of plants was part of his character.
When I returned to the gardens Erboristeria dell'Orto Botanico I took photographs of the plants as a store of knowledge of plants native to Italy.
At the time, I had no idea how these would come to play in the stories, but I knew I could use them as a reference. When I started writing The Peach Widow I knew that Nikolaos and his knowledge would play a key role. On my original trip to the botanical garden, I was concentrating on edible plants but in this story it was his knowledge of poisonous plants that provides a plot twist.
Nikolaos' expertise comes to play in The Vellum Scribe, another Argolicus mystery and a current work in progress, but for a different reason. Argolicus' uncle Wiliarit creates books. He arrives for a visit to enlist Nikolaos expertise in finding plants to use in his illustrated encyclopedia.
The aim of first research is to discover background and details that will enrich the story for your readers. You are in discovery mode. Find details to store away. For beginning writers, gather as much as possible but know that 80% of your research will not show up in your story. The reverse of this that when you want a detail, you will have material to enliven your characters and enrich scenes.
Know When Enough is Enough
Original research at the beginning gives you a grand overview. As you write, you will discover that with all the research you've done, in the middle of a scene you need one more pertinent detail.
A good rule of thumb for knowing when to stop research activities and plan the story is when you can talk to a friend about your background information comfortably without notes. Then it's time to stop and move on to story.
The Business Side of Being an Author
The business side of of being an author can be bewildering, time-consuming, and frustrating. Gabriel Mercer presents ways to
This presentation was part of the 24-hour Indie Author Fringe conference presented by ALLI the Alliance of Independent Authors.
The Time is Now
If you are a new author, the time to get these business systems in place is now. I call these activities "creating the baskets." As your business grows you'll
Copy the P&L Sheet to Your Google Sheets
Your Novel Outline Can Make You Invincible
For a writer, nothing feels better than writing The End when your novel is finished. Beginning novelists can flounder around trying to make the first novel work. An outline can keep your story on track and make all the difference when it comes to writing your entire novel and reaching the end.
Novel outlines are as different as novel writers and there are many good sources to use. The difference for you is creating the outline and writing your story to The End.
Working through your outline will
The more detailed your outline, for example, each scene within the chapter, the easier you will find the writing.
Your novel outline is flexible. You can add or delete scenes or move them around in the storyline. Scenes can change as you write them. The outline makes sure that every component keeps your story on track to the end.
Novel Outline Choices
A novel outline can be anything that helps you create an overview of the entire novel. It can be as simple as writing the chapter sequences in a notebook or as detailed as using a spreadsheet. Some people enjoy the reassurance of boxes in a spreadsheet and some the flexibility of a mind map. There's a style for everyone.
The Old Standby
The traditional storyboad outline is constructed with 3 x 5 index cards on a wall or bulletin board. Cards are lined up in the three act structure.
You can carry the cards with you anywhere to make a note. This writer also added notes torn from a notebook. The beauty of this storyboard is that you can rearrange the cards any way you wish. Especially in the planning stage as you work through the complete story, it is easy to rearrange scenes.
Since 1974 when Post-it notes were invented, some writers use these sticky notes rather than index cards. The ease of use is the same.
Computer software has added new space-saving ways to create an outline. You can create a MS Word document with a table as a story outline.
Or a spreadsheet. You can create your own or search for the many available templates online.
Download the Word or Excel templates and get started.
Many novelists rely on Scrivener as their go-to software for writing. Within the software is a bulletin board where you can "pin" cards just like the index cards on a bulletin board. As you create your outline you can move scenes and chapters the same way you can with a real life bulletin board.
A mind map is useful for complex novels with many characters, opposing political factions and alignments, or completely different worlds. The map can not only list all the characters, but group them and illustrate interrelationships. I use FreeMind a very flexible and detailed open source tool. You can add links to research urls.
If free flow appeals to you, mind maps are a great way to construct your story overview. There are many options, just search for mind maps and take your pick.
There are a number of outlines available for a modest price such as Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake Method. And many that are genre specific. A web search for your genre novel outline will give you many choices.
If your story is based on sequenced events in one day or takes place over a long period of time a timeline will help you make sure your events are in correct sequence. Aeon Timeline not only makes it easy to visualize the entire sequence but integrates with Scrivener.
In The Cloud
Cloud storage frees up space on your computer's hard disk. Google Drive offers Docs and Sheets for word processing and spreadsheets. I use Docs when I am writing short stories. I keep it simple by creating a character list and chapter outline in the main document. I can quickly go to the outline using a header which shows up on the left.
Sterling and Stone is beta testing a writing app called StoryShop. You can get on the list now when it goes live.
Do The Work, Then Write
The number of ways you can create your novel outline are manifold. Choose the method that fits your personality, your writing style, and your genre. The important step is to create the outline.
Work through your story. Use whatever structure and beat sequence you want. Fill in all the components of your novel. You'll find that writing will go faster when you know exactly how a scene fits into a story.
The novel outline is a power tool for getting to the end of your novel.
Have questions about outlining your novel? Get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
Scenes are the building blocks of your story. Each scene moves the story forward. As you build your story alternate between action and reaction.
When you go through the first edits of your story make certain that all scene components are in each scene. You’ll take your reader by the hand to lead them through the story.
Two Types of Scenes
Alternating between Proactive and Reactive scenes is a cycle that builds story in increments.
The Proactive Scene
The Proactive Scene challenges your protagonist.
By the end of the scene, the protagonist has not only failed to reach his goal but has a setback that leaves him worse off than at the beginning.
Checklist for the Proactive Scene
Put your hero or heroine in the worst possible situations as they seek what seems like an obtainable goal at the beginning of the scene.
The Reactive Scene
Now that your protagonist is thwarted, it’s time to give him some space. This scene is where your heroine makes a decision about what to do next.
Checklist for the Reactive Scene
These are the basic elements to include in the Reactive scene when your protagonist makes a decision.
Reactive scenes provide a way for your character to make really bad decisions which will create even greater conflict later on. She may be blind to the motivations of another character. He may find that getting into the boardroom isn’t a slam dunk. Reactive scenes are your opportunity to build conflict and tension because the following action scene may be based on a very wrong decision that seemed right at the time for the character.
Why This Structure Helps
For beginning writers, all this alternating of scenes may seem forced. I know, I was a beginning writer, and thought the same way. But my stories went nowhere and lacked tension. Readers want and expect your characters to have problems and overcome obstacles. Unless you are very compulsive, you don’t need to write these lists down. Just know which type of scene you are writing, create the obstacles either to action or decision making, and write the scene. Your story will benefit and your readers will love your story.
Scene Editing When Your Story Is Finished
Once you have written each scene with all the writer passion you hold, go back to edit your story with a cold, clear eye.
Scene Checklist For Editing
Practice story editing with an objective eye. Be as unbiased as possible about the elements in each scene. Use your critical mind to objectify the story. I think of it as switching from the story creator, the one who loves the story, to a person who is looking at a thing. Use whatever mind tricks you can to be as objective as possible.
Do this work on your story and scene structure before you send it to an editor.
Some writers completely switch into editing mode and stop writing during the process. I like to balance editing and writing so I do some of each during the editing process. Find what method works for you, but don’t skip story editing.
Create and Share Free Books for Author Promotion
Hook potential readers with a free book giveaway. Book Funnel stores PDF, .epub, and .mobi files so they can read your book in their format of choice. Scrivener users can compile a manuscript to each of these formats. Once you have created the files, simply upload each file plus the book cover to Book Funnel.
Here's a quick tutorial on how to set up your book for distribution.
Increase Your Exposure, Gain Readers
Your free book is an invitation to readers to get to know you. Make sure your put some of your personality in the free offer. It doesn't matter if it a book or a one-sheet. For most new readers your free offer is the first chance they get to meet you. First impressions count. Make your book look professional. Create a personable introduction to you and your writing.
Zara Altair, Author
The puzzle of politics, the mystery of murder in ancient Italy. After Rome, before the Middle Ages, Italy belonged to the Ostrogoths.