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Here’s where a writer has to get organized. I’ve talked to a lot of writers who just plow through with no aim, and hope a story works out in the end. In my opinion, that’s for amateurs.

I use Microsoft Excel to keep my stories and chapters organized. A lot of writers use Scrivener, but I don’t know much about that program. I hear it does a lot of custom things and helps organize on a lot of levels.

I use Excel because that program speaks my language. It just makes really good sense to me.

One thing I do is create a page in Excel for my list of characters. What do they look like? How do I describe their attire or mannerisms? What do they do? Who do they know? This way, if I refer back to a character from chapter two in chapter 19, I can just look at my spreadsheet and see what was unique about them.

I also keep a timeline page. What happened and when? I put down dates and years, whether or not I use those in the narrative.

I keep a chapter highlights page. What was the crux of each chapter, when did it happen and who had the point of view (POV)? It’s easiest and less confusing to keep the POV with one character through the entire narrative. But it’s also limiting. So my rule is that the POV cannot change in the middle of a chapter. New POV? New chapter.

The outline stage is where the writer decides who everyone is, and whether they get married, have babies, or die. A story has to have twists and turns. It has to have conflict and intrigue. Find appropriate places for these in the outline.

The writer might decide later in the process that certain plot twists don’t work, or that certain characters need to do something different than planned. That’s fine. The outline is not your Bible. It’s your Constitution. You can alter it.

I change the Excel spreadsheet to reflect changes I’ve made later in the process. So when I’m done, the two documents tell the same story, just in different ways.


One thought on “Outline

  1. Pingback: The Process of Writing a Novel | The Creative Revolution

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