If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied

Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Monday, February 26, 2018

How I Outline My Novels by Debra Sennefelder

There are a few schools of thoughts on outlining. Some writers outline, some don’t and some do a combination of both processes, which means they loosely outline so they have an idea of where the story is going. Me? I outline. The outline for the The Uninvited Corpse was about 20 (single-spaced) pages long and the outline for book two came in at 23 pages. I cannot imagine writing either book without outlining.

Why do I outline? Outlining gives me a clear direction of where the story is going and lays out the plot which includes twists and turns and defeats and triumphs for my amateur detective, Hope Early.
How do I outline? I begin with Michael Hague's six stage plot structure. This method also serves as a template for writing the synopsis of the novel. Yes, even after selling your first book you need to be able to write a synopsis for your next book. Let’s look at an example, the first stage of the plot structure, of how I incorporate this structure into my outlining.

Act One: First 25% of the novel

0-10% - The Ordinary World

This part of the book is Hope’s ordinary world. It's Hope's life before the murder and where I hope that readers will connect with her and want to follow her along the journey. I usually just write a few sentences with very few details. Here's what I wrote for the book I'm currently working on (the second in the Food Blogger Mystery series):

Hope Early is the publisher behind the growing food blog, Hope at Home. Her current project for her blog is a series on stress-free meals so she’s developing recipes for slow cookers and pressure cookers. She’s also continuing to remodel her antique farmhouse and the big project now is building a new garage on her property. The book opens with Hope arriving for the first day...I'm not giving any more away. :)

Now I'll continue to go through the whole six stage plot structure and when it's complete I'll set it aside for a few days. When I return to the document I'll add a few spaces to each section and elaborate on what is happening at that particular point of the story. Each section now will have several sentences which are a bit more detailed and the basis for the next step of outlining the novel.

When I begin outlining I include the chapter number, the scene number, the day in the story, the time of day, and the location. I also include all the details of that scene, snippets of dialogue if they come to me as I'm typing, descriptions of characters or locations or objects, and links to online research sites. My outline is jam packed with a lot of stuff. Here's a snippet from the outline I'm currently using:

Day One – late afternoon

Hope arrives at home and is greeted by her sister, Claire Dixon. She didn’t expect Claire to be waiting for her or having to explain why she’s late getting home. Bigelow, her dog, comes racing to welcome her home. Claire is in a huff because...you'll have to read the book to find out why she's upset. :)

Writing the outline can take weeks and I honestly don't remember how long it took to write the outline for book 2. I completed it last spring. Some writers feel writing an outline sucks the joy out of writing the novel. They're not surprised by anything when they sit down to write the novel or they feel the outline structure is too rigid. Valid points. However, I don't feel that writing an outline hinders the novel writing process. The outline isn't carved in stone and can be adjusted accordingly as I write the story. During the draft writing process (I usually go through 4 drafts) I have changed things such as eliminating a scene - I did that in the first draft of book 2, the scene was flat and I was totally bored by it so I cut it and brainstormed a new scene to replace it - or adding a character or re-arranging scenes. Doing any of those things can be nerve-wracking for a writer but since I have a detailed outline that is guiding me, it's like a safety net, I can make those changes on the fly.

If a new writer asked me if he/she should outline I would say "yes" and share my reasons why. But does a writer need to outline? No. Every writer writes differently and no one should impose his/her practices on another writer. But I think writers should outline. :)


Kait said...

Now I have to check out Michael Hague's six stage plot structure. Although I know it's too detailed for me, I love learning outline schemes and always learn something from them. Not sure I could do 23 pages of outline -- but anything to help the dreaded synopsis!

I'm a hybrid. I know who died, I know why, and I always think I know the villain (I'm usually wrong), then I do a list of 15 things that have to happen in each third of the book. After that--I sit down at the keyboard and let the characters guide me.

Jim Jackson said...

I am a pantser. I start with a general concept and then my outline runs 90,000 words, after which I usually have a pretty good idea what the story really is!

I understand the advantages to outlining, but every time I try, I give up in frustration. It's just not the way the creative portion of my brain functions, so I've returned to my messy seat-of-the-pants ways.

~ Jim

Debra said...

Good morning Kait, It's great that you've found what works for you. That's the most important thing.

Debra said...

Good morning Jim, Thanks for sharing your process. It's important writers find what works for them and use it. Writing by the seat-of-your-pants works for you so pantster on! :)

Tina said...

Total pantser in the creative phase, but then I go back when I'm done and see how well my draft fits into Circle Structure, which is TV writer Dan Harmon's narrative theory based on Joseph Campbell's heroe's journey. It's kind of like outlining after the fact, which I always told my comp students was useful even if they didn't believe me.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

There's nothing like the thrill of opening up a new Word document and putting a protagonist in a situation. I'm a pantser for the first draft, then sketch the plot with Hallie Ephron's spider web diagram, throw in Ramona DeFelice Long's story arc, and re-read Linda Rodriguez's little yellow book. And do more drafts.

Debra said...

Hi Tina, I'd hadn't heard of the Circle Structure. Interesting. Thanks for sharing that. Have a great day!

Debra said...

Hi Margaret, It's great you've found what works for you. We just have to trust our process to get to a completed book. Have a great day!

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing about your process. It's good to have a system that is reliable.

KM Rockwood said...

I do a general outline, but I find my characters balk at me trying to tell them what to do in any detail. Sometimes they just go their own way.

When I reached the last chapter in my first mystery novel (which shall stay in my file drawer, deservedly so) I realized I was completely wrong about who the murderer was. Another character unexpectedly confessed, and my main suspect was indignant that I had her pegged as the guilty party.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm pretty much a pantser, but after I type out each chapter that I keep in a binder, I write in a chart in the front of the pages I put in a list with three columns telling what each chapter was about. In the first column is the chapter, the day and time of day. In the middle column is a brief summary of what happens in that chapter, and the last column I write what characters were in that chapter. Right now with the latest book I'm working on, I have nine chapters done. Before I write my next chapter I'll go through that list and see where I'm going next. Like KM, I find my characters coming up with their own words.

I'm pretty sure I know who my murderer is, but at times I've switched to other murderers in
other books.

Debra said...

Hi Warren, I agree totally. However we work, it's important to know what we're doing is going to get us the results we want - a finished book. Have a great day.

Debra said...

Hi KM, Thanks for sharing your process. Have a great day!

Debra said...

Hi Gloria, Thanks for sharing your process, the chart you use and how it's used in your writing.

Gloria Alden said...

Debra, it helps me know where to go next and what characters need to be brought back.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Debra,
I wish I were as organized as you and my fellow writers here! Now I'm dying to find Circle Structure, and Spider Web, and....
I write in scenes, so I know high points that I want to incorporate and usually have the end in mind (and often get there!) Then I put in the connective tissue between scenes and hope that my subconscious hasn't failed me. I wish I were an outliner with all my heart, but I try and just get carried away with writing.
One thing we have in common is that I do track dates and places for each chapter. Timeline is so important!

Grace Topping said...

I took an online class through the local community college and came out of it with a complete outline for my mystery. They focused on the nine points in a mystery. It made it much easier to write the story with the outline. I enhanced it and moved things around, but overall my structure stayed pretty much the same.

Debra said...

Hi Shari, What you're doing seems to be working. It's a must to track the date and locations. Heavens only know what would happen if I didn't. I might have the longest week ever with like 20 days in it. LOL

Debra said...

Hi Grace, That's great you came away from the class with a way to outline that worked for you. Have a nice evening.