Co-Writing, Outlining, and the Creative Process

You may have noticed it’s been a bit quiet around here lately. The reason -- I’ve been super busy working on my next novel (more info to come soon!). But what’s really exciting about this project is that I am co-writing this book with an amazing writer (this is the first time I’ve co-written a book) and it’s been such a fun and positive experience so far. What I’ve loved most about it is the accountability – there is a different level of motivation in knowing that we are relying on each other to move the story forward.

The other thing I’ve loved is the speed at which we are getting the words down. With both of us writing, the book is progressing twice as fast as it normally would if I was writing it on my own.

Another aspect about co-writing that I love is the level of excitement we share about the book. Normally, writing is a solitary endeavor, but when you are co-writing you share a level of excitement with someone who is equally as passionate about the characters and scenes you are both creating that others just don’t “get.”

As far as negatives, I would say first and foremost for me it has been getting over the fear of showing my work at such an early and rough stage to another writer. I’ve never shared my work at this stage with anyone before and it was hard to accept that I had to do it.

Also, while we have the same vision for the book, and work very well together, we both have very different styles in how we approach book writing. For instance, we both like to have a general plan (see below), but then I write a very rough first draft (my first drafts turn out to be more of an idea of the story rather than a fleshed out story) while my co-author, on the other hand, writes very polished from the start.

I do have to say, though, that despite these small differences, it’s all coming together very nicely and has been a positive experience. In fact, we already have ideas for the next book.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS – OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’ve tried everything from writing with absolutely no outline, letting the story progress as I wrote, to writing a very detailed outline, including lengthy, 10-page character profiles.

What I found is that if I don’t have any outline at all, I usually don’t finish the novel. I’ll get off to a good start, get stuck, and then get frustrated and put it away, never to see the light of day again.

If, however, I have a very detailed, lengthy outline, I can usually finish the book, but I spend so much time on the outline that I get bored and feel constrained while writing the book.

So, at some point I finally settled in the middle. I follow a general outline and let the scenes progress organically.

For example, I know the following points in the story before I ever begin writing:

  • Hook
  • Inciting Event
  • The Key Event
  • First Plot Point
  • Second Plot Point
  • Third Plot Point
  • Turning Point
  • Climax
  • Close

Once I have these points clearly identified, and have a general idea of the story itself, I can fill in the rest as I write. An outline is important in that it does help create a cleaner first draft, a more complete story with minimal if any holes to fill in later. I like to think of it as a roadmap. You have to hit certain points, but you can explore (or create) in between each destination.

Here is what a typical outline looks like for me now. Pretty simple, right? An outline doesn't have to be overly time-consuming to create or an extremely lengthy document. It just has to be a roadmap to get you from A to B.

 

I’d love to hear from you. Are you a plotter or a pantser? Comment below.