On Writing

The Outline


Awe, the outline.

The word used to strike fear in everyone I knew around me and myself. I have fought the very idea of them since grade school.

But, now I can’t write without one.

I did not use an outline while writing my first book. That book took me four years to complete and when I took it to query it accumulated a very large pile of rejection letters.

Then one morning, over coffee, I read an article of the value of creating an outline and decided I would give it a try with my second book Hush.

I finished writing Hush in less than six months and within two weeks a publisher picked it up.

Well that was lucky, I thought, so I wrote an outline for my second book Whisper.  Five months later I was finished and the same publisher picked it up before I even completed the write because I had something to show her, a plan; my story had direction.

I have created them with every book ever since, including my first picture book, Sock Monster coming spring 2015.

Outlines can be as complex as you want them to be.

Mine usually take a couple of weeks to create and I do it at the same time I’m researching the subject I’m going to write about.

Outlines are not set in concrete. Mine usually grow as my manuscript does.

I will outline from beginning to end but allow the end to change as the characters do.

Daily when I’m writing and rewriting I refer to my outline. It helps keep me moving forward. It is a map of what is to come, what has happened, and what needs to be enhanced.



When I write a character I like to know everything I can about them. In doing this  I get to know what makes them click and how they’ll react to any given situation.

To help me with this I’ve created a work sheet. I fill one out for each of my major characters and even some of my minor ones.

Character profile

Name / nickname_______________________________________________________________________

Age / birthdate__________________________________________________________________________


Hair color________________________________________________________________________________

Eyes color_______________________________________________________________________________

Skin color________________________________________________________________________________

Scars / tattoos /birthmarks________________________________________________________________


Language/ dialogue ticks__________________________________________________________________


Work experience________________________________________________________________________

Religious preference_____________________________________________________________________




Relationship status______________________________________________________________________

Parents/ family_______________________________________________________________________________

Home life_________________________________________________________________________________




Desire/ dreams______________________________________________________________________________

Conflict/ problems______________________________________________________________________

How does character view self_______________________________________________________________

How do others view character______________________________________________________________

What makes character laugh_______________________________________________________________

What makes character sad/cry­­­­­­­­­­_____________________________________________________________

Hobbies/ sports________________________________________________________________________

Musical preference______________________________________________________________________

Style of dress_______________________________________________________________________________

Favorite color_______________________________________________________________________________





Setting can be just as important as character.

Before writing a scene with a strong sense of  setting ask yourself these questions.

Where are you, what is your location?

What does it look like?

Does it have a purpose and/or function?

What color is it?

What does it feel like?

What does it smell like?

What sounds surround the area?

What is the lighting like?