How I Outline My Novel

There are a few different effective and straightforward methods to outline a novel, however, I do it in my own way. Recently I’ve seen some questions pop up about outlining novels so I thought I’d break down the way I do it since it seems simpler to me, and in another post, I will discuss the other methods thoroughly.

I think my way of doing it is very close to the snowflake method but as you learn more about it, you’ll see that I don’t stick to it fully. I just want to let you know that even though there are actual methods and names for them, there is no wrong way you can do this. Whatever works for you will be best for you. As writers of fiction, things are almost always jumbled and coming to us rapidly and out of nowhere so we tend to note this down all over. From notepads, to phones, to different apps and software. You name it, we’ve written on it.

So without further ado, let’s get into it….

STEP 1

I would call this your idea phase. You know that moment when an idea hits you but it’s only a sentence long? This is just step one. Fun fact about Kat: I used to begin writing with just that first idea and it was horrible. I found myself being stuck more than usual. This is where you’re going to brainstorm. Write down all of the ideas, thoughts, characters, names, whatever contribution you have to bring to this novel, just write them down. It doesn’t have to be in specific order. It doesn’t even have to make sense at this point.

STEP 2

Now that you have all of your ideas down it’s time to really think about the main plot of your story. An idea can go anywhere whether it’s romance, suspense, thriller or a mixture of genres. Try writing a summary of what you’d like your story to be about.

STEP 3

Create character profiles. I’ll briefly explain here how I do this as I plan to create an entire post to help with character profiling. This takes some work, some critical thinking. Not only are you going to name your characters, you’re going to create a description of their physical attributes as well as what they do and what they stand for. For example, if your character’s name is Sophia and Sophia has long blonde hair, green eyes etc etc Then you’ll need to add to Sophia before you start writing. What does Sophia do? How does Sophia think or react? Does Sophia have a shy persona or is she outgoing? What are her likes, dislikes, boundaries.

STEP 4

I’d recommend naming and explaining as much characters as you can at this point. The main ones, their family members(if they have a part in the story). While writing you’ll most likely add characters or omit characters. Have no fear, these changes are doable and nothing is set in stone. Having a base of characters gives you ammo to write with so along with your main plot and setting, you can write something without having to stop every few paragraphs.

STEP 5

I should have mentioned setting earlier but here’s why I left it out until now. During your summary stage, you would have most likely mentioned the location or setting in which your book takes place. Let’s call stage five, research. Whatever you want to put into your novel and you feel like you need to know more about it, get on google and research the heck out of it. Look for pictures of places, houses etc You can save them for later use, or you can just makes notes as your description comes to life in your head. Another thing you want to research is jobs functions, weather of a particular location etc. Anything that you feel you need help with in creating a better summary.

STEP 6

Summary number two! So now that you have all of this information, write a complete summary with the added details of your characters and settings.

STEP 7

What you’ll do from here is expand your summary. Don’t get rid of any of your earlier work by the way. Expand your current summary. Add your sub plots or scenes as I call them. Any specific quote or line you need to place somewhere, add it all in. You can redo this as much as you need to in order to create your desired outline.

STEP 8

When you feel like everything makes sense, start writing. Having this guide will help you to write on days that you’re uninspired or lost because you’ll know what’s going to take place. Even if you get stuck take a time out and then get back into it. Remember this is only the first draft and another fun fact: My first drafts are often horrible and written very poorly with a few brilliant things in between. Patience is virtue when it comes to writing. Take your time, try to finish that first draft even if you’re not completely satisfied. Anything can be corrected, omitted and modified later on.

I hope this made any sense at all and I hope it helps you in your writing process. Good luck!

xo Kat

 

Mistakes I Made As a Writer

Since I have started working on book length stories, my knowledge and experience of the writing process has broadened significantly. When I started out with writing books, my basic process was to just start writing with one small idea I had at the time with barely any concept. I just had an idea, basic knowledge of my characters and I started to write. I found myself being stuck a lot along the way, that thing they called writer’s block. It would frustrate me to no end as to why I can’t just write my story and finish it despite having an idea of what I wanted to convey.

I took a break for a couple of months from working on a book, and I utilized that time to really study my craft and work on myself as a writer. Here are some of the mistakes that I made when I first decided to pursue writing books.

No Outlining

To be honest, I didn’t even know about outlining as a strategic way of writing a book. I had a notebook and I wrote down ideas and pieces of my story and I basically tried not to over do it, thinking that it was very incompetent of me to outline an entire book. I was both surprised and excited when I heard of well established authors doing this. Bear with me here, I was a total noob to this entire writing books thing. Previously, I had only done poetry and short stories for self fulfillment that I never let anyone else read.

Not outlining my story was a bad approach for me, and since then I have found it to help me write on days that I am not even inspired. When you have your lay out, you at least know what you want to say even if it’s first draft material.

Lack of Patience

When I first heard of self publishing, I was elated. I still believe that I am a novice writer, and I don’t think I have the confidence to pitch my book to any agent or publishing house so I felt like maybe this self-publishing route was a good one for me. As it was, I read a lot of great self-published books on Kindle, some of which are my favorite reads til date.

So I mustered the courage to actually begin writing the story in my head. Writing takes time, it’s a long process to have a completed manuscript, one that you’re satisfied with. Again, I saw prolific writers on Kindle just releasing book after book and often self-doubted myself as a writer. We all do at some point but I had days when I just felt like maybe I’m pursuing the wrong thing and that really affected me because the only thing I can say with confidence that I know how to do is write. Writing for me is living.

Underdeveloped characters

In my head my characters are well thought out. I am constantly always thinking of my stories and characters and it builds itself as time goes by. I do write down a lot of what I’ve come up with but when I read over my written work, I realize I need to personalize and give my characters more depth. If I didn’t learn how to do this, they would all sound the same. So it’s a matter of being one writer with many different stories to tell, and you have to fit yourself into many different hats/shoes. You need to spend more time with your characters, understanding their lives, their stories, their likes or dislikes, their jobs etc.

Rushed Content

This might come into play with my other points. Like I was saying previously, lack of patience invites rushed writing. In the desperation to have a finished book, my story and characters weren’t fleshed out enough. I felt like it was more a description of things, people and places, than a connection as a reader of my own work.

Too Much Telling, Not Enough Showing

This is a little tricky. Why do I say that? Because I’ve seen established authors do it. I’ve learned to correct my own essays in elementary school so when I read, I come across things that I feel should’ve been edited in a different fashion. It really interrupts the story for me but it is a learning curve. The best way to write, is to first be a reader.

It’s important to convey your characters thoughts and feelings not so directly to your readers. Readers are smart people, let’s not underestimate them. They can get bored and fall out of love with your writing before you can even blink. As an example, let’s talk about anger. Throughout the book, you wouldn’t want to repeat yourself like a broken record saying, “This person is angry” or “This person is furious.” A more comfortable way in writing the same feeling over and over is to describe what’s going on with your character. For instance, “She grips the edge of her seat until her knuckles go white.” Pardon my generic sentences, I couldn’t come up with anything else at this point.

A Thousand Rewrites

Frankly, I still do this and this is why I stress on outlining at least your basic idea before writing. Read over your outline and makes changes before you begin to write. Make sure you’re satisfied with what you have for a first draft. Anything else can be modified, fixed, added, chopped in your second revision.

Self-doubt

Even the best writers have self-doubt. I still doubt myself, and feel like I will be the laughing stock of the nation if someone actually reads what I’ve written. Previously I mentioned that I never showed my work to another human. Writing is me, I am writing. It’s how I truly feel. I want to be an author so badly, that I can taste it. If I give up writing, it would be like giving up a huge fraction of what makes me, me. Even though you self-doubt, there are avenues to make you feel better and comfortable as a writer. If you want it bad enough, don’t let anything stop you.

These are the main things that affected me as a novice writer. I’ve seen people ask questions relating to all of these so I thought I’d put together a post to share my experiences with writing. 

xo Kat

 

 

 

Start by Writing Simple Stories

Recently I have been so engrossed with writing techniques and listening to other people on Youtube share their writing journey or publishing journey. My eyes have opened quite a bit since I have started pursing writing full on. I have all of these stories in my head and the need to get them out is sometimes, painful. I go through these period where I feel like a failure because all of these ideas mean something but it’s hard to choose which one is the most epic. In the middle of writing something, I feel it mundane compared to what I know I can do. Deep down we know our potential, and we can only get there through hard work and diligence.

Last year when I started writing my first book-like piece, I was under the impression that to write something good one had to be over-the-moon smart but after hearing some of my most admired authors’ stories, I’ve started seeing writing from a different perspective.

I’d like to share something I’ve noticed, and also experienced to people who are pursuing writing, as a hobby or as a career. This is for beginners like myself and comments/tips are always appreciated on this blog!

There’s a Youtuber that I look at from time to time who shares writing tips. Said Youtuber has a self-published book out and I thought to myself, “Wow, her book must be something great if her tips are that great.” So I went over to amazon and downloaded a sample of her book and do you know what I found? Within the first few paragraphs I saw that she broke the very rules she was telling people not to break. Over usage of metaphoric descriptions, too much telling.

I’m not here to bash on another writer’s book, it simply wasn’t for me. But that’s not the issue. From what I gathered, this author had to build an entire world and characters in them, and it was quite a lengthy task. I myself, as a novice writer have many epic story ideas but I won’t pursue them quite yet.

Building worlds, and writing about other worldly elements is quite a difficult feat. So if you’re just starting off like I am, go simpler. Learn your craft before you tackle anything too hard. I think it was JK Rowling that said you have to get out all of that bad writing out before you find your voice. It’s like that saying, practice makes perfect. And no piece of writing is bad writing. Never delete your work. It came from a genuine place and it would project in your story. Anything you don’t like, can be fixed but never delete it.

Happy Writing! Leave me a comment to let me know how your writing process has been thus far 🙂

xo Coffee Doll

Where do you get your blog content?

Where do I get my blog content?

I get my blog content the same way I get ideas for writing stories…through everyday life. Something or someone might spark a conversation in my head that I have with myself and voila! Things come to me while reading, cleaning, shopping etc. I’m pretty sure all of our minds work this way.

It’s how to stay inspired and passionate about what you write that’s tough. I’ve been hoarding blog ideas since 2014 when I first started blogging and although I have quite a few topics to explore, I often don’t feel inspired every time I sit in front of my computer.

Firstly, you need to know what you want to write about, what you want your blog to be about. You need to do some soul searching and find out what you’re passionate about. I’m a mom, and I love reading and writing. Slowly my blog is becoming a book blog, but it’s something I am passionate about and something I can talk about for days. So most of my content is based around parenting, lifestyle and books.

If you’re a personal blogger just writing about your journey, you can write like you’re writing in a journal, documenting your days and your experiences.

Once you’ve figured out your main idea for your blog, you want to brainstorm ideas and write them all down. I promise you that you won’t use all of it but you’re setting a foundation if you want to do this daily or weekly.

Plan out your topics, select a few you’d like to elaborate on and just write then publish! Voila!

Getting all of your ideas from your blog doesn’t always come off the top of your head. It depends on what you’re writing about, you may want to use images, and you may have to do some research. The best way to keep track of all your ideas is to write them all down. As for getting images, you don’t have to have the best camera. I myself use free images from pixabay.com and they work just fine.

Happy Blogging!

xo Coffee Doll

Outlining Your Story Helps You Write Better

Last year, I’d managed to finish two novellas without a particular process or schedule and since then I have been struggling with planning and completing stories. Every time I’d sit down and try to write complete mayhem broke out. In between normal life and daily duties, I could not utilize whatever spare time I had to write something of significance. I’m still struggling but I took time out to really study the writing process before jumping back into writing. So far, it’s been effective. I’m happy for myself, that I’ve recently started writing again, something that I just need to do.

I was under the impression that to be an author you had to be beyond intelligent and just know everything, that one can just sit down and write a perfect novel in one shot. When I started experiencing writer’s block despite knowing where I wanted my stories to go I realized that I needed to halt and revamp the way I approached writing. Dialogues are easy for me as I’ve always wanted to be a screenwriter since my tween days but it’s the details, descriptions and making my characters emote that I have the most trouble with. As my research progressed I learned that extensive research and planning goes into a story. At least for me, it was a new and different approach and one I decided to try out.

I did plan before but there were always holes in my story. I had the core idea, knew who my characters were and what was going to happen but it’s the how that hindered my progress. After trying to outline my story, I realized why I should’ve done this a long time ago. I consider myself very novice at writing but it’s something I love and I want to pursue so I had to get it right. I am still trying to get it right. So instead of just writing based on small notes I’ve made, I outlined an entire story from beginning to end and it felt almost as satisfying as completing a book. Bear in mind this is just the beginning. After completing a first draft, there’s lots of edits, formatting and modifying that needs to be done but I’ll elaborate on that more in another post.

Here’s how I outlined the story that I’m currently working on…

  1. OneNote. I came across this program, that’s free on all platforms by the way, called OneNote. It doesn’t save like a word document, it syncs and you’ll be able to access your work on multiple devices. Sometimes a thought might hit you and all you have is your phone on hand so I find this very useful if I quickly need to make a note or addition to anything. (I will create an entire post how I use OneNote for outlining and writing with pictures.)
  2. Writing Chapter Summaries. I used to write one entire synopsis and a few details here and there about scenes and dialogues that I already know I want in my story. I’ve started writing one liners about each chapter and it didn’t start in order. By the time I kept adding paragraphs to the one liners, I noticed my story tying together to make sense. (Note: If at this point your story sounds chaotic, worry not. It will tie together. Remember that this is just the beginning of it and your work will always be tweaked as fast as your ideas come along.) This is one thing I like about chapter summaries, if you feel like adding something different, it gives you room to work. Unlike just writing your book and half way through you realize that you need to redo the entire thing. So outlining your sub plots save you all of that. Once you’re satisfied with the outline, you can then begin to write.
  3. Character Profiles. Previously I would make a brief description of my characters such as dark hair, green eyes, tall, short…whatever their job was, who their family was. Sometimes I’d add new characters as I wrote and sometimes I’d want to take out a character that wasn’t making sense anymore but I couldn’t. So planning out my characters well and outlining the entire story, helps me know from the beginning which characters should be omitted as well as if I need to add a character somewhere down the line. I also ran into problems when I called my characters doctor or accountant and in the middle of the story I had to research details of their job descriptions. My advice is to research these details and any information about their jobs…note their likes, dislikes, behavior, families previous to writing. It has helped me in a big way so far.
  4. General Research. As much as us fiction writers make up a lot of details we still need extensive knowledge on how things in our stories function. For example a hospital…if a lot of our story is set in a hospital revolving around the people that work there, we’d have to know what goes there, who is in charge, their responsibilities, what equipment is placed in what department…things like that. You get the idea.
  5. Don’t leave holes. One of my biggest mistakes when planning a story, I’d leave out a lot of details thinking I’d polish it during the editing process. This causes more chaos that you’d think. Plan your scenes, and elaborate as much as you can before even beginning to write. It helps you write with a flow as you have noted exactly what you want to convey in that chapter.
  6. Sketch your Plot and Climax well. All stories have some sort of issue that needs to be dealt with which can either break or make your story. Make sure it’s a convincing and sensible one as well as your climax. I’ve read many books where the entire build up was brilliant only to have a rushed ending with an unconvincing plot. I’ve also written stories like this, sadly. So that’s why I feel it’s important to pay attention to your plots and sub plots along with the climax.

Thanks for reading! xo Coffee Doll

The Challenges of Writing Romance

I enjoy both reading, and writing in the romantic genre. I think my obsessions with a good romance started at an early age. The first trigger was Indian movies which I looked at quite a bit because of my mother and most of them were centered around romances. For some reason the library at my high school carried Mills and Boon novels and I fell into that very quickly. My fifteen year-old mind went places, if you know what I mean. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mills and Boons, they are a set of romantic books published by it’s parent company, Harlequin Enterprises. Most of what I read was set in a historical period and till date I enjoy reading romances set in the far past. Not everyone enjoys romances or its sub genres but I do. I love a happy ending, flawed characters that grow, the essence of drama and love. I love it all. One of my favorite authors as an adult is actually Nora Roberts. She’s my hero when it comes to reading romance. Her books usually have strong characters and suspense or a little mystery so it dramatizes very well.

And because I enjoy this genre so much, a lot of ideas or plots that take birth in my head end up materializing into a romantic story. I have plotted and outlined so many of these romantic story lines and even though I can almost always see the ending, it’s hard to complete. It may seem like an easier genre to write compared to sci-fi, fantasy or crime fiction but it comes with it’s own challenges. If you run into similar problems or have any input, please feel free to drop me a line in the comments.

  1. Creating subplots. The template for most romance stories are similar. Boy meets girl or girl meets boy and they instantly click or click over time. The thing that would separate your story from another writer’s story is your subplots. Both or one of the main characters will need an issue to resolve.
  2. Repetition. Romances are a difficult genre to write because much of what we fantasize or dream about has already been written. It’s unnerving when you question every dialogue, every scene.
  3. Creating Interesting Characters. The earlier romances that I read had weaker female characters who suddenly came into thier own after finding love. In more recent times we see stronger female characters. I often find I write bland characters and need to make them do something drastic or have an annoying quality to appear more engaging to a reader.
  4. The Problem & Climax. Every book, romance or not needs a problem in order to reach the climax. The problem needs to be engaging and convincing enough for readers to want to get to the climax. I’m left doubting my work more than I would like to. The climax also has to be a suiting one. For example, not all love stories have a happily ever after ending. It all comes down to the fear I have of disappointing readers. I’ll talk more about that in a separate post why that’s not a great idea.
  5. Simple love or sexy love. When it comes to writing erotica, I’m still having a hard time. I am uncomfortable with writing intimate details, for the fact that I won’t allow my parents to read something with adult content. I’m also a sucker for back in the day romances…you know the kind with love letters and chivalry. It’s difficult when I sit down to write and all that’s playing in my head is “Clean or dirty.” I wish so many stories didn’t call for it, unfortunately it does.

Thank you for reading! xo Coffee Doll

Where Do You Get Your Writing Ideas?

Where do you get your ideas?

Not very often I might be engaged in a conversation with another human, and I might reveal the fact that I write stories. Mostly it won’t be an interesting topic for them and they’ll likely move on but sometimes I get asked, “What do you write about?” My tongue gets caught for a moment because, while I do have a lot of ideas, I have been writing romance for the past year and people react strange when I say this. I’m focused on romance currently because it’s easier to navigate through the story and less research goes into it compared to my fantasy and thriller ideas. Those take quite a bit more planning and may take years to complete.

The question that follows the first one is, “Where do you get your ideas?” or “How do you come up with these ideas?” It seems unnatural to people who don’t see a story in every feature of their day, and sometimes it surprises me. What do non-writers even think about? I don’t know anymore. The moment I made the commitment to become a storyteller, most of my spare thoughts are focused on my characters or plot.

By the time I brush my teeth in the morning I have three or four things to write down that I may or may not use in a story. By the time I drop my kid of to school, I’ve made about ten mental notes to explore with an idea.

My ideas come from everywhere, and everyone. I’ve always been observant about people and the way they are, fascinated by the things they do and what drives them. I don’t judge people based on anything whether it be race, religion, choices…and that’s a plus if you’re a writer because you can explore a character in a non-biased way. I don’t exactly copy anyone’s physical attributes or their demeanor but closely paying attention can help you shape your characters in a relatable way.

Story ideas are always brewing in my head. No process or major thinking goes into the core idea of a story. The hard work comes when the writing starts but plotting the story just happens and it can be triggered by anything. Any thought or action can bear fruit into an idea for a story. It’s how story telling works. If someone pisses you off write about them. If you feel an emotion deeply, use that also in your writing. Anything and everything is part of a story. I have this book that I literally label book idea #1, book idea #2 etc. I’m sure I won’t use all of it, but brainstorming for ideas and plots is one of the best things you can do to let your ideas run freely.

xo

Short Story Failure & Musical Inspiration

So I planned to rework on a short story that I began sometime last year and post parts of it on my blog today. Lo and Behold, my creativity flew out the window. I couldn’t even manage to cut and paste some work I had already saved. Shame! Shame! Shame! (It’s a Game of Thrones thing if you watch that show).

I used to write poetry  an era ago. It was pretty dark for a teenager but it was true to my feelings. I remember listening to music as a sort of creative inspiration and the words would just come to me. When I started working on stories, I just killed all of that, thinking I need silence to concentrate but the silence is so deafening, isn’t it? I just sit there and stare at my blank screen for hours on end and get distracted by social media.

I do listen to upbeat music or grunge while I’m doing chores around the house so I can gain the relevant energy to perform physical tasks but what type of music do I listen to when writing? Surely it can’t be like Breaking Benjamin or System of A Down. Maybe Coldplay???

But I may have just found the perfect melody.

I look at this show on the History Channel called Vikings. I recently started looking at it and totally binged in a few days. Now I’m all caught up and I never thought I’d say this but I just may have bumped it further up than The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. :O It’s a brilliant show, well written and the performance is absolutely amazing. Okay, let’s not get sidetracked. The music on this show is just phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to this type of music before and I am absolutely blown away.

The title track is soothing to the soul. I think it’s sung by a Swedish artist. Most of the background music used during the show is a type of Nordic folk music and while I have no idea what they’re saying, it’s just so alluring. I literally get goosebumps when I’m playing it. I’ve just started putting together a playlist called “Writing Music.” It’s just so serene. Your mind can really belt out some ideas while engrossed in it.

Well, I’m yet to see my productivity levels listening to my newfound love in music.

xo Coffee Doll