Hello fellow Soul Mateys. This is my first post on this blog and I am excited to be here.I recently participated in a writing class given by James Patterson. I write romantic suspense, and he’s the master of suspense, so it was perfect for me.
I’ve always been a pantser. I get an idea, run it around my head until I have time to get to it, and then I sit down and write, and the story is all there some place in my head. I know a lot of you probably work the same way.
James Patterson dedicated two entire lessons to outlines, and he managed to convince me that an outline is absolutely imperative. So I went ahead and created an outline for my upcoming novel, Virgo’s Vice. This story was already written, and I already had a publishing contract on it with Soul Mate. It’s not supposed to work that way, of course. The outline should come first, but I wanted to see if it would change anything. I managed to get it done, and received my first edit from Caroline about a week after I completed it.
It did change things. A lot. Just for starters, the number of chapters doubled.
Here’s what I learned.
- Patterson recommended starting with an outline, separating each chapter, and getting the entire story down before you even start writing it. I found that this doesn’t work for me because I’m not a plotter and it interferes with my creativity. I now write until I get to a place where I’m a little stuck—we all get to that point at some stage, right? That’s when I go back, read over what I’ve written, and start my outline.
- There are no rules about how to lay out your outline. I’ve seen templates for some very complex outlines that totally put me off. Just a numbered list like this with a new number for each chapter is fine.
- Write what’s in each chapter as if you’re telling a friend about a book you just read.
- Now go back and read the outline and consider the following:
- Think of each chapter as a scene in a movie, and make certain you started a new chapter for each new scene;
- Each chapter should contain something that moves the story forward. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t need it. There has to be a reason—or plot point—for every chapter. Deleting is hard, but sometimes it is the best thing to do;
- Make certain each chapter ends with something suspenseful to compel the reader to move on to the next one, preferably at the height of the conflict. (The hook);
- Try to find a way to add more suspense to each scene with impactful words, actions and visceral emotions (consider the senses used—sight, sound, smell, touch, taste plus balance, pressure, temperature, pain and motion.);
- We write romance and this means there should be as much sexual tension as possible. Put the primary characters together and then tear them apart;
- If a scene doesn’t seem quite right, try writing it in a different character’s POV;
- Try two or three alternate endings.
- Troubleshoot and edit, edit, edit.
Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, I absolutely recommend that you use this excellent tool. It’ll also help you to write a synopsis when you’re ready to submit it to Soul Mate Publishing.
Trish writes rural romantic suspense and her stories always include pets.
Would love to connect.