Outlining and hitting submit

The most important thing for my brain is to have a system, or a challenge. Anything that feels “efficient” is a project that I can latch onto and make whatever the larger task entails much more interesting.

Art History is nearly done (it’s taking me so long due to fear, I think, that’s another post) but the time between what I last wrote and now has been long. So long that I forgot key elements of my story. since I didn’t outline, I don’t have a reference and even so, we all know that the story doesn’t always follow the outline to a T. So I needed time to reread what I had and sketch out the rest of the story. I knew that I would have an easier time finishing if I knew where things were going.

The most important thing for my brain is to have a system, or a challenge. Anything that feels “efficient” is a project that I can latch onto and make whatever the larger task entails much more interesting. I wanted to make an “up to know” outline for the story and I had key elements that I wanted to keep track of. I figured I would read carefully and write up a little outline, similar to the one we’ve all seen by J. K. Rowling as she worked on Half-Blood Prince. Or one of the others. It doesn’t matter. You remember the chart.

Not an endorsement, obviously,
but we’ve all probably seen this.

Well, my brain said, “That’s just a handwritten spreadsheet, isn’t it?”


Google Forms

I created a new Google Form and set it to send answers into a spreadsheet. I knew that using the form would keep me within a structure of the items I want to track (year, ages, setting, POV, the main romance plot and the three subplots) while allowing my focus to wander a bit at other issues or ideas I wanted to bring forward.

  • I had a chapter or scene number (two-digit numerical to be able to sort),
  • the POV character (in a drop-down menu),
  • the setting (another drop-down with an “Other” choice),
  • the year this is taking place (I’ve got flashbacks scattered throughout),
  • my main characters’ ages,
  • and then one column each for the plot and subplots.

The most important item was a final column just for “Notes.” This is where I added my mishandling of secondary characters’ names, the fact that Derek’s eyes are actually brown and not blue, and taking the pineapple motif off of one of Willoughby’s shirts so readers won’t think of him as a swinger. (This was something I only learned about recently and I’m still not sure it’s not an urban legend.)

This part of the project, which took about a day, gave me the confidence to outline the rest of the book and the excitement of getting these two dorks back where they belong.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m not really a “dark romance” type of reader or writer. I’m a sucker for idiots in love, so look out for that.

Google Sheets

Once I had my spreadsheet completed, I highlighted a few areas I needed to keep an eye out for, any rows with “Notes”, and checked to see that the flashbacks were distributed in a way that I hoped wouldn’t be disrupted and flowed with the main narrative. And, it helped!

I was inspired by Michael La Ronn’s Pocket Guide to Pantsing audio book and his suggestion of keeping an outline along the way. I am a bit of a “pantser”, but I think that works best when there are moments of structure along the way—at least for me.

I like to play, but I thrive with a safety fence around my playground.

As I start book 2 of the Woodlawn College Romance series (this summer!) I’ll be using the Google form method to keep track from the start. I’ll have a short paragraph or two that tells me the idea of the story and a couple of the characters, then outline as I go. As I feel the story take shape, I’ll outline further along (as a guide) for the next writing session, and add ideas as they come to me (usually while I’m driving). I’m excited to build out my stories this way and I hope it keeps me motivated and on track.

I’ve been writing about writing for a while now and it’s time to put up or…well, that’s the only choice, right?

What weird tech tricks have you done to keep your writing moving along?

Featured photo by alexander ermakov at Pexels

What was my point…of view?

My biggest surprise was how my point of view slipped from time to time. Let’s just say I left myself some pointed comments.

I recently read through the draft of Art History in order to check for continuity errors (I have a habit of switching names of things) and refresh myself with the story in order to outline the last few chapters before sending it to my editor.

What I thought would be about six chapters at most, turned into twelve, and I still feel like I may be rushing the ending a bit. This is a new genre for me as a writer, so I’m giving myself some space to mess around.

I’ll be doing a post later about my strategy for keeping track of plots and subplots, as well as the details from scene to scene. I feel like I’ve smoothed out a bunch of rough spots, but more on that later.

My biggest surprise was how my point of view slipped from time to time. I’d start a chapter with Sebastian’s POV and then slip quietly into Willoughby’s head. Derek’s chapters occasionally hopped over to Casey or Sebastian and back. Let’s just say I left myself some pointed comments.

Since I started writing the story as a serial, I didn’t see it as a whole, enclosed story. I knew the happily-ever-after was inevitable (that’s hardly a spoiler for romance, even m/m romance) but how we were going to get there felt distant, cloaked in the mists of the time.

That was a problem for future Betty.

Or Lisbeth, since that’s the name I publish this under.

I can’t even stay in the same one of my own heads!

While I know there are authors that have mastered the third omniscient point of view, I feel like this story, with its two idiot leads (I say with love), lends itself to a more intimate view. It helps to be inside their heads. That’s how I’m seeing the world as I write.

Breaking point of view is now on my list of writing quirks I need to be watchful for. It happens in the drafting phase when I’m trying to keep up with my characters as they deviate from my carefully planned outline. I admit, it’s fun to follow them down those paths, but sometimes I need them to just sit still. Just for a minute.

I think one day I’ll publish a version of the story where I annotate all the places where I smacked myself in the forehead and thought, “Young man! Where do you think you’re going?”

Why do I write?

All writers have varying reasons why they write one thing or another. Yet, why write at all? Why do I write?

Charles French asked this question and challenged his readers to answer it for themselves. What follows is my attempt.

I don’t have a biography that dates back to early childhood when I would speed my way through story books and have to write my own sequels to keep the story going. I did do my local library’s summer reading contest, but sometimes I read shorter books just to boost my numbers.

I don’t have a compulsion to write where I get physically ill when I’m not producing words or building worlds. I worry about people who say that and I think they should talk to their doctor about twice-daily “settle the hell down.”

I don’t have a sense of fulfillment when I finish a piece or satisfaction when I’ve put something out there to be read. I have a strange disconnect when I put a piece of writing in the “done” box of my brain. It’s still mine, but not only mine, and I’m okay with that.

I do enjoy the process of writing, the feel of stamping out my thoughts into these little stick images of letters. I like how I can take these feelings and broadcast them to a wider audience and understand that some will resonate, others will not.

I really love writing down what I see in my head, because writing has always felt more like transcription rather than invention. I am leaning into one myth while disrupting another, but while I know that I am creating each line out of my own will and the influence of writers I’ve consumed (not literally – what have you heard?), but there is a liminal zone between the thought and my emittance of the thought that feels physical and wide, giving me the illusion of channeling a separate sphere.

It’s not. I’m just making stuff up, but it feels cool.

That’s it!

I write because it feels cool.

Why do you write?