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Chloe Neill @chloeneill
, 22 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Since I look to my creative outlets to keep me sane in these Days of Crazy, let's talk about "outlining" your novel, shall we? I'm going to walk through what I've done before, and what I've been doing for the last 10 books or so /1
With SOME GIRLS BITE (my second manuscript), I had no outline. I was writing on pure emotion, pure inspiration, and without deadline. I was also a single introvert, and writing that book every day was My Life. Along with, you know, law school. 😅 /2
When I submitted SGB, I'd also written a synopsis for Friday Night Bites which /checking/ was a 20 PAGE TREATMENT. Why I did that, I have no idea. 😆 But after that, the process changed. Along came deadlines and synopsis requirements. /3
Submission of an accepted synopsis is one of the payouts on my advance schedule, so I always prep them. And, frankly, I need them. I need to have a good idea of what I'm going to write about in order to manage 2 books a year plus a dayjob. I need efficiency. /4
Basically, I'm talking here about a general overview of the book which I prepare for my editor to explain what I'm going to write about. (Not, for example, a synopsis you'd prep for a WIP. I've done that, too.) /5
I'm not sure if the synopsis "requirement" is common among contracts, but it works for me, so it's fine. Previously, I've tried the full-on outline--as in, open a Word doc and Roman Numeral the crap out of that bad boy. That was . . . not a successful experiment for me. /6
It was really, really detailed. As in "Then X talks to Y about A. Y responds B. X responds C." It was insanely specific, and it turned the act of writing into an administrative act. The writing was no fun, and when it's your side hustle, you better enjoy it. /7
Next, I tried the famous JK Rowling character x day approach, in which she plots in a grid what each character is doing over the course of the book. That was handy for keeping track of characters and noting action points, but bad for emotion. /8
Next, I tried a day by day approach in which I listed out, in chrono order, the events of the particular day. This was intended to hit the big issues, without the level of conversational detail previously. /9
Looking back, I think that approach suffered from the same weakness as the grid -- it's so focused on action points that it doesn't address the other big components of the novel. What's the antagonist's motivation? What are the secondary plots? /10
And then I hit on the approach that worked for me -- the hybrid motivation/day by day synopsis. It's what I've done for the last 10 or so novels. It makes me really *think* about what I'm going to write, it explains that to my editor, and it becomes my "bible" for writing. /11
Here are the components:
1. Overview
2. Antagonist's motivation
3. Relationship plot
4. Secondary characters plot
5. Day by Day walk through

1-4 are narrative discussions. 1 is typically 6 paragraphs or so, the others shorter. /12
Why a Day by Day approach? Because my books usually include 6-7 days of activity. The first day will necessarily include the intro to the cast and the problem, and days 6-7 will include the battle and denouement. /13
The events in the middle will create the tension, include some laughs and false steps, and involve the solving of the mystery. Thinking about the book as a series of 6-7 stages is, for me, similar to the three-act approach many authors use. /14
And each day, btw, is 4-8 narrative paragraphs explaining the key events for the day, how the characters feel about them, etc. Not too detailed. Maybe a sentence of dialogue if I've come up with a quote I want to remember, but that's it. /15
Once I get this drafted, I send to editor, and she'll give me notes. Two key issues:
- Are the stakes high enough? (Does the story matter?)
- Does the protag have agency? (Does s/he contribute to the plot by her actions, not just coincidence?) /16
We'll discuss and/or I'll revise, and when it's finalized, I have a working doc that I can use to guide the writing. Now, all that said, I usually write the book out of order. 😑 /17
That is, for me, the price of having a day job. I have a limited amount of time to write each day, and I may not feel a romance scene, or a witty convo between Merit and Mallory. So I check the synopsis, find a scene I can feel, and work on that. /18
I don't know if this system will work for me forever, but it works for me now. And, of course, THIS ISN'T THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT. This has been trial and error to make my writing efficient and address my common first draft weaknesses. YMMV! And that's okay! /19
It's fine to try a thing, and it's fine to change and do something else. And if plotting doesn't work for you, don't do it! There are plenty of authors who don't, and even some whose outlines are massively longer than mine. That's cool, too. /20
Just write, the way you write, however you write best.

Any questions? /21
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