By Amy Clipston
Through the years I’ve found that my book projects fall into two categories—they either write themselves or writing them feels like having my teeth drilled. In other words, the characters either tell me the story or I push them through the story as if they were dead weight.
My book Room on the Porch Swing, which releases May 8, falls in the former category. Before I started writing, I could visualize my characters, Allen and Laura, sitting on the porch swing, and I could hear their dialogue running through my head. The characters told me the story, and I felt as if I couldn’t type fast enough when I wrote it.
A Promise of Hope, the second book in my Kauffman Amish Bakery series, however, fell into the latter category. When I wrote this book back in 2008, I finished a few chapters and then hit a brick wall and found myself stuck. When I mentioned my writer’s block to one of my editors at Zondervan, she offered me an outline method that forced me to plot out the story from start to finish, and it brought the story to life in my mind.
I still use this outline method today, and I’ve found that it helps me fight the dreaded writer’s block. Since I work full-time and write several books per year, including full-length novels and novellas, I’m forced to be very organized. My outlining method has enabled me to not only meet my deadlines, but turn my novels early. In the eleven years I’ve been published, I have only asked for one extension.
Here’s my process for keeping up with deadlines and avoiding writer’s block:
- Write a short synopsis
I start by composing a short synopsis to send to my editor for her approval. It consists of a few paragraphs and short character sketches. It’s a general summary of the story.
- Write a longer synopsis
After my editor approves my short synopsis, I expand it into a longer synopsis that I incorporate into the marketing form the cover designer utilizes. I include more details in this synopsis, such as specific scenes.
- Compose the outline
Once I have completed the longer synopsis, I begin my detailed outline. The outline forces me to plot out the entire book, chapter my chapter and scene by scene.
Don’t be afraid of the outline! I’ve taught classes on this method, and some of the writers were afraid the outline would kill their creativity. When I explained why I outlined, they became excited about it. Don’t see outlining as a creativity killer; instead, look at it as a roadmap for the story. The story can change and grow, but the outline will force you to look toward the finish line.
I have the outline set up in a Word document with rows and columns and includes the following:
- Chapter number
- Scene number
- Point of View
- Event (what happens in the scene)
Sometimes it takes me a week to complete my outline. If I get stuck, I brainstorm with my mom and we work out the snags. It’s a challenging process, but I feel organized and ready to write once the outline is complete.
- Write, write, write!
After I have completed my outline, I get to work. As I mentioned above, the story changes and grows along with the story, but the outline keeps me working toward that finish line.
I hope this writing plan helps you stay focused on your writing projects. Keep believing in your stories, and keep writing!Don’t see outlining as a creativity killer; instead, look at it as a roadmap for the story. @AmyClipston #ACFWBlogs #writing Click To Tweet
Amy Clipston is an award-winning and bestselling author and has sold more than a million books. She holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan University and works full-time for the City of Charlotte. Her current Book, Room on the Porch Swing, is the second in her Amish Homestead series. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, mother, two sons, and three spoiled rotten cats.