How the Sausage Is Made

Extreme Outlining with the Mawdsleys

Extreme Outlining with the Mawdsleys

The day is here! NaNoWriMo starts in about 10 hours for us, and our outlines are ready. Here’s our last post explaining just how it is we put it all together, complete with pictures and screencaps.

First up–J.

Here was my first idea.  I just tried to work out the rough three-act structure of the story.
Outlining 1Sometime after I wrote that, I decided to switch “boyfriend” to “girlfriend,” because it represented a bigger, more dramatic change for our heroine, Thyra.

Then I came up with the idea of adding Leila as a second POV character.  Rather than having a random “deflector shipmate,” why not use someone from a previous story?  I started using the Seven Point System to fill out the story a bit.  I also made myself go through and name the characters, so I wouldn’t have to do that when actually writing the story.

So from the “Act I” section above, we get this:
Outlining 2At the same time, I started doing character profiles, which meant deciding what the characters wanted and who was trying to stop them.  And, as I was doing this, I realized that I didn’t have an actual antagonist in the story, yet.  So I decided to add Vivi (Leila’s intel supervisor) as a POV character.  At this point, I didn’t really want to work out every single plot point for Vivi, since I already had them for my other two POV characters.  I’ve mentioned before on this blog how I do character arcs for minor characters; what I did for Vivi was just work out how she fit the four archetypes: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, and Martyr.  Here’s her first chapter, where she’s an Orphan:
Outlining 3Finally, I filled in the details of each chapter.  At each plot development, I asked myself, “Okay, how is that going to happen, exactly?”  Notice, for example, that in Chapter 3, Thyra is supposed to meet Elias Vanjasson.  So how would that happen?  Thyra (at least at this point in the book) and Elias are both very passive people.  So I decided Thyra would meet a woman on the boat headed south who would turn out to be Elias’s cousin.  So Lieutenant Skathi Ithunsdatter was born, just to effect the introductions later on.

So that’s how I worked through each chapter.  When I had specific ideas for dialog, I wrote those down.  I worked out dates and times, as well.  And, based on the rough latitude of our imaginary cities, I figured out what the weather would be at that time of the year.

Here’s what I now have for Chapter 1:
Outlining 4So that’s how I do it.  Good luck with your writing this November!  S and I will be checking in from time to time, just to let you know how it’s going.



Now for S

The novel I’m starting tonight at Midnight is the first I outlined specifically following the character relationships and beats from in My Story Can Beat Up Your Story. After I figured out the general shape of the story (Oleg investigates the murder of his boss and mentor), I decided that Oleg as well as Camila, the head of a foreign intelligence service who is both helping and hindering Oleg’s investigation, would be the POV characters. Then I set to work creating the cast and what relationships these people would have with Oleg and Camila, as well as answering important thematic questions for the story and POV characters. (This last part is something I’m not sure we’ve ever discussed from My Story…. Really folks, just go get yourself a copy. Read it. Love it. Live it.)

And then with J’s help, I wrote out all 44 beats for both Oleg and Camila as though they were each the protagonist of the novel. (Seeing as how it’s the Oleg Omdahl series, Oleg is the protagonist, but when planning, literally making the Antagonist the heroine of her own story is a pretty good idea.)

My table of character relationships.

My table of character relationships.

Eventually I typed up all the beats, but I really like being able to literally see my entire story at the same time, so J and I wrote it all on rolls of paper at taped it to the wall.

Oleg's thematic questions and relationships.

Oleg’s thematic questions and relationships.

Camila's sheet.

Camila’s sheet.

After all of that, I did the same chapter breakdown and word counts as J explained above. And that’s how I planned the novel I’m going to start writing in a few hours.

Happy noveling, everyone! We’ll be around as NaNo permits.



One comment on “How the Sausage Is Made

  1. […] chapters for Act 1 (the first 25% or so of the novel). Whether or not we get to doing our usual word count breakdown of each chapter before we start writing, we still haven’t […]


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