Outlines or Not – That is the Question

Day 15: #atozchallenge

I don’t know about you but I’ve read so many articles on outlining versus pansing, my head is spinning. For the most part, I am one of those who write by the seat of their pants. I let the muse and my characters take me where the story needs to go.

Since I’ve been working on my first novel (for a while now), I decided to look at outlining and novel mapping as a way to help me get the book finished and ensure I had all the necessary bits and pieces.

I use Scrivener and it has proven to be an invaluable tool in outlining what I’ve written to date. It is particularly helpful utilizing the custom meta data.

In additional, I started an Excel worksheet that maps out my novel. Columns include Character, scene number, timeline, setting, goal, conflict, action, reaction, stakes raised, and plot advancement. Each row is a scene. While Scrivener’s outline is similar, I like having something tangible to look at and make notes on while I’m writing.

Before you begin the outline, there are three things you need:

  1. The premise of your story – what is the basic idea?
  2. Your Characters – make a list of essential characters. Understand the events that have placed the character is this situation and what things influence his/her reactions.
  3. Establish settings.
  4. Sketch out scene ideas.

Complete your outline, scene by scene. You can elaborate or use a single sentence.

Outlines come in a number of formats: the linear, skeletal, summary, snowflake, contextual, visual map, or software. Choose the one you’re most comfortable with or none at all. Not every writer uses outlines and that is perfectly okay. After all, it’s your story, write it the way you want to.

Want to see examples, check out 8 Ways to Outline a Novel by Robbie Blair. You can find out more about outlining scenes at C.S Lakin’s,  Live, Write, Thrive and K.M. Weiland’s, Outlining your Novel.

I’d love to hear your comments. Talk to me. Tell me your story and look for me on Facebook at SheilaMGood,  PinterestBloglovinTwitter@sheilamgood, and Contently.

Character Building Tools Every Writer Needs

Stories are about people. It is the characters we fall in love with, root for, or sometimes dislike. We notice their quirks, sense of humor, and mannerisms. We relate to their failures, triumphs, and dastardly deeds. But, it is the characters that keep us turning the pages.


How we develop characters  differ from writer to writer, but we all start with a vision, even if it’s sketchy.

Some characters, we envision before our pens strike the paper, others appear as the plot thickens. However, developing a character outline or sketch as part of your planning process will not only keep the flow of words moving forward, but provide well-rounded characters that keep readers engaged.

When I began writing fiction, I scoffed at the notion that a character, you hadn’t planned could walk onto the page, until it happened to me. An Irish American man named Richard Donovan stepped on the plane and took a seat next to my main character. Without taking my fingers from the keyboard, I  understood the relationship he’d have with my main character and where he fit within the plot line of my story.

I still had work to do on Mr. Donovan if I wanted him to be anything other than a fly by night (no pun intended) aberration.

Characters are not just a name in a story. They represent a person we want our readers to understand, and relate to. Fully developed characters take thought and planning. We need to know what makes them tick if we have any hope of knowing how they will react or behave in the circumstances of our story.

Whether you clip photos from magazines, keep index cards or a notebook, developing a character is more than physical description. So, I thought I’d share my favorite tools for building and developing characters.


Building Believable Characters


Angela Ackerman has a wonderful post today, 3 Quick Tips to Help Readers Connect to Your Hero. In addition, Angela and Becca Puglisi have written two books specifically designed to help you define your characters.  Check out their  Writers Helping Writers bookstore for complete details.


 Matt Heron from The Write Practice explains in detail, Scrivener and with a free 30 day offer, now may be the time to give it a try.


What method, tool,  or resources do you use when developing your characters? Tell me what works or doesn’t work for you. I love hearing from you. Talk to me and tell me your story.