By Misty M Beller @MistyMBeller
On the SC Writers ACFW chapter blog last week, I shared the first step of my planning for a new novel: The Brainstorming Document. If you missed it, you can find that post here.
This week, I'll share step two, the Chapter Outline. As I mentioned before, I'm a plotter, but not to the extreme. When I hear some seat-of-the-pants writers talk about a bare-bones rough draft, I often think my chapter outline must be similar to that first draft. Regardless, this helps me plan out my story and get a feel for the way the motivations and character arcs (from the Brainstorming document) will play out in the plot.
So without further ado, let's talk details about:
*** The Chapter Outline ***
This is a scene by scene document, written in third-person, present tense. I include dates, and tentative POVs for each scene. Here’s an example from my book, The Lady and the Mountain Doctor. (Please don't judge the story from this behind-the-scenes snippet. :) The creative process takes strange forms!)
Chapter One - Oct 28, 1876, Miriam’s POV: Miriam is bleeding a deer when she's attacked by a mountain lion. She fights the cougar, and then loses consciousness from blood loss.
Alex’s POV: He's grinding Echinacea root when Gideon comes crashing in saying his sister Miriam is hurt badly. Alex helps him carry her to the exam room, then sends Gideon to find his brother to help with surgery. By the time Bryan arrives, Alex has examined her and given the prognosis. The lateral collateral ligament has a second degree tear, but the worst seems to be a large tear in the patellar tendon. Bryan tells him to take the lead on the surgery.
I usually use this document to keep up with my timeline, except there was one novel where I had to resort to an actual calendar (because I needed to track Pony Express runs that changed every week).
Even though I call this a chapter outline, it’s really a scene outline. When I’m writing the first draft of the story, I usually tweak the planned chapter starting places based on word count and what feels right for the story (making sure I end each chapter with a good hook).
This entire Chapter Outline is very fluid and usually does change some when I’m writing the manuscript (MS), but it gives me a good skeleton to start from. I copy and paste the next section from my Chapter Outline into the end of the MS so I can always see what’s coming next. Not to say I don’t veer if the story needs it, but this saves me a lot of time getting myself back in the story when I sit down to write each day.
I allow myself at least two to three weeks to write the Chapter Outline, working on it an hour or two daily. I find that the more I put into this document, the quicker my writing goes when I’m working on the manuscript.
As we said before, everyone must find their own process for inspiration and creativity, but we discover it by trying methods from other successful writers. When you find something that works for you, make it your own!
Misty M. Beller writes Christian historical romance, and is author of the bestselling Mountain Dreams Series and the Texas Rancher Trilogy. Her upcoming book, The Lady and the Mountain Call, will release April 5th, 2016.
Misty was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. About eleven years ago, she made a career change from farm life into the business world, where she worked as a Senior Manager and Director of Process & Training. She's now loving the life of a writer, wife, and mother.