I’m spending the next week putting the finishing touches on my plot outline before I begin writing the first draft of book number three. I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my process.
I sold my last two books off synopses. So, I’ve already brainstormed, and I have a general structure for the book. I like to go further by creating an outline that tells me exactly what I’m going to write for each scene. I do this by creating a detailed spreadsheet that I use as the blueprint for my book.
I label the columns of my spreadsheet “Chapter,” “Scene Summary,” “POV,” “Setting,” “Goal/Reaction,” “Conflict/Dilemma,” and “Disaster/Decision.” If you don’t understand the significance of the last three columns, you should definitely check out Randy Ingermanson’s article on scenes and sequels.
Each row represents a scene in my novel. The novels I write for Heartsong are between 45,000 and 50,000 words. My scenes tend to be about 1,000 words long. I plan for two scenes per chapter (usually one in the hero’s POV and one in the heroine’s POV). Therefore, I have around 25 chapters and approximately 50 rows. Everyone writes different chapter and scene lengths; this is simply what works best for me.
Are you still with me?
I have additional sheets in my spreadsheet for the heroine’s profile and the hero’s profile. There’s also a sheet that includes miscellaneous information including my theme or story question, setting information, and any other details I need to track.
My novel tends to deviate a lot from this spreadsheet, and I almost always have to go back and revise it during the writing or editing stage. So why do I spend all this time on the spreadsheet? There are three reasons.
1. It forces me to take a close look and answer questions about my book before I start writing, which saves me time in the end.
2. When I’m working on the rough draft, it helps me dive straight into writing when I open my WIP.
3. During the editing stage, I can go back to the spreadsheet and look at my entire book in only a few pages.
If you’d like a copy of my spreadsheet, send me an email at julie (at) juliejarnagin (dot) com. I’d be happy to share it.
What’s your process? Pantsers, does my process sound crazy to you?