Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Do you ever get bogged down in your writing? Do you have an incomplete story you just can't seem to finish? Maybe you need a Road Map.

Over the past seven years I have somehow managed to complete eleven manuscripts. I can honestly say I have never - not once - faced writer's block. Every time I sit down at my computer to write, I know what I want to say and how I want to say it. I like to compare writing a novel to driving in the car. Without a map, my story will just meander and never really get anywhere. My system works for me and maybe it can help some of you. Here is how I do it:

1. BRAINSTORM - When I first get an idea for a story, I never just sit down and start writing. I mull it around in my brain for months, hashing out details, testing different plot possibilities, creating characters. Most of this is done in my mind, but I also use a lot of sticky notes and tack them up all over my bedroom wall.

2. OUTLINE - Once I have a concrete idea how the story should flow, I write an outline including the hook, 3 plot points, and conclusion. Knowing the end of the story is vital. I must know my destination and determine the most effective route before I rev up my writing engine.

3. SUMMARY - This is where I flesh out my story and my characters. I take my outline and write a lengthy, detailed synopsis. It's basically a short story version of my novel, and is anywhere between 8 and 20 pages long. I write the entire story from beginning to end.

4. CHAPTER BREAKDOWN - The last step before I actually begin writing the novel itself is breaking the entire novel down into specific chapters or scenes. Each chapter is assigned a number and a title (for quick reference--my titles do not appear in the finished manuscript). I write a 1-2 sentence description of each scene.

Once the above steps are complete (which can take months) I am ready to sit down at my computer and write. Now I have a road map right in front of me. I know where my story is going and I know exactly how to get there. I write one scene at a time (not always in order, either) and keep track of my progress as I go. When I arrive at my destination, it is time to celebrate.

If you have an unfinished story lying around, I encourage you to try your hand at creating a road map. Post your thoughts and experiences here. I'd love to hear from you.


  1. I love your process, and think it makes a lot of sense. I wish I had done something like this with book #2, because I think it would have sliced away lots of revision time. I'm retweeting this now :D

  2. With some books, I have done exactly what you describe here. Then I've had others where an idea with characters came to me, and I just started writing in a fervor until it ended. I find sometimes the process depends on the book. With the series I'm working on now, it involves such intricate plotting that I absolutely HAVE to have a detailed road map as you describe.