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