I’m a confirmed outliner. Before I start every new novel I outline as much of the plot as possible; the more the better. Because once I actually start writing the story my aim is to plow ahead and not lose momentum.
For that reason I write in layers, (see Writing In Layers, Feb 2014) starting with the elements of story I find easiest to write – dialogue and action – and adding later in subsequent layers the things that take me a little more time – description and internal monologue.
I’ve just returned from a writing retreat at which I discovered a new tool that helps me in the final stage of this process.
Normally once my first draft is written, I discard my outline. With my current novel however I kept it – just on a whim – inserting chapter numbers to give me a comprehensive index of the plot.
I wasn’t sure how, or even if, I would use this ‘chapter sequence’ but thought it might come in handy for writing my synopsis at least. Or I could refer to it when doing revision.
At the retreat, where I’d set myself the goal of adding more depth to my characters, I spent most of my time freewriting about their pasts and jotting down issues or questions I thought they might reflect about in the story.
I ended up with a number of passages worth including. The problem was, once I’d created these various snippets, I didn’t know exactly where to insert them.
That’s where my chapter sequence came in. By reading it through, I could easily spot appropriate places to sprinkle these bits of reflection and narrative. Far faster and easier than searching through the entire manuscript.
This is the first time I’ve done it this way but it seems a useful technique to remember. One I’ll certainly try with my next book.