Why I now use an outline: redux

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In the interest of full disclosure (does anyone else love using that phrase?), I’ve written a few posts about outlines over the years. I think I even had one in January. The things is that my opinions have evolved since I began writing.

And I thought I’d revisit the subject.

The short answer to why I now use an outline is: I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.

And that was the ‘short’ answer.

The long answer? I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.

Just kidding.

Looking back, my fear of outlines comes directly from learning about them in school. I hated the rigidness of them. And also, they never made sense to me. At all.

It randomly struck me last year that an outline could be whatever worked for me.

I began with a cobbled together version of a tree branch mind map. That morphed to include a bastardized version of  the beat sheet. And finally, I began doing a chapter by chapter one sentence breakdown that I updated as I write.

The latter is the most recent addition.

I’ve found it really helpful was I’m writing to jot down a sentence or a thought for what’s going to come in the future chapters. With a mystery, I don’t want to be stumbling for clues as the writer. And I’ve done that a few times in the past.

It’s been a revelation toward making my writing life easier.

How about you? How do you outline your novels?

Motts Cold Case Micro-Fiction

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A little 100-word micro-fiction, I wrote for my Motts Cold Case Mystery series. I usually share these in my Cozies by the Fire facebook group.

“He’s hairless.”

“He isn’t.” Motts cuddled her newly adopted Sphynx kitten to her chest. “He’s got peach-fuzz like fur. Feels like rubbing a pair of suede trousers.”

“How do you go out for a cat and come home with a naked one?” Her dad seemed far more amused than her mum. “He’ll be cold.”

“I got him a sweater.” Motts held up a tiny jumper in her other hand. “He’ll be fine. He’s adorable and perfect.”

“Still hairless.”

“Are you broken?” She stared at her dad who continued chuckle. “He’s not actually naked. He’s a cat.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m ignoring you now.”

Character Deep Dive: Vina

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A closer look at Pravina from my cosy mystery series, Motts Cold Case Mystery Series

1. She’s Motts’s ex-girlfriend.

2. Nish is her twin brother.

3. She’s a whirlwind of spice, style, chaos, and laughter.

4. Her mother is Indian and her father is Cornish.

5. She loves baking.

6. She longs to live outside of Cornwall, but can’t imagine leaving.

7. The most impulsive out of the group of friends.

8. She would take a bullet for Motts.

9. Not as studious as her twin.

10. She’s not really a ‘pet’ sort of person but she does love Motts’s cat.

Quoth the Raven: Part II

A couple years ago, I put a blog post together of writing quotes I enjoy and use for inspiration.

I thought I’d share a few more of my favourite quotes. This time from books I read either as a kid or in my teens.

  •  “. . . . I cannot escape my life but can only use my determination and courage to make it the best I can.”  ― Karen Cushman, Catherine, Called Birdy
  • “There’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • “I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.” – Jane Austen, Persuasion
  • “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  • “As Estha stirred the thick jam he thought Two Thoughts and the Two Thoughts he thought were these: a) Anything can happen to anyone. and b) It is best to be prepared.” —Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Things you didn’t learn in Cosplay Killer

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For me, and I’m sure most authors, there’s always details about your characters that don’t wind up on the page. Things that help you build their personalities or their worlds, yet readers might not see them. I thought it would be fun to share a few of those.

First, the biggest thing that happens off screen in Cosplay Killer actually occurs a year or so before the story even starts. Osian experiences the worst fear, I imagine, for any paramedic. It greatly affects both him, Dannel, and the story itself.

I wanted to start a year on because to me it was interesting to delve into the process of recovering from that.

Second, Dannel’s family history. It’s a tricky one because we see what happened from Dannel’s perspective and when you’re a kid, you see things different. I’m going to enjoy exploring that even more as the series progresses.

Third, theatre kids. This one is kind of on the page because we see a lot about musicals and plays. But both Dannel and Osian were massively into theatre throughout their childhood. I don’t really explore that much.

 

My Stages of Writing Preparation

As I’m in the process of writing Pickled Petunia, book 3 of my Motts Cold Case Mystery Series. I thought I’d share the stages of writing prep that I go through with most of my novels.

  1. Make a to-do list. Seems redundant, but I work best with lists. It’s a bit of a life-hack for me, as someone who is autistic and deals with executive dysfunction.
  2. Add a new section to my book series Pinterest Board.
  3. Create both a TV/Movie and music playlist. For my cosy mysteries, I watch a lot of shows like Rosemary & Thyme and Ms Fisher.
  4. Come up with a title.
  5. Read any prior books in the series.
  6. Outline + fill out my book bible.
  7. Do any research.
  8. Names for all the new characters being introduced.
  9. Update the corkboard over my desk with book inspiration. For Motts, it’s an image of Elliot Page and photo of a village in Cornwall similar to the one in the book.
  10. Pick the notebook I’m going to write in. I tend to write in a notebook then type up what I’ve written the following do. It’s almost like sneaking in an extra edit.

Those aren’t necessarily in order. Some of them happen concurrently, particularly when I’m on #6.

2020 in Review

In 2019, I decided my word for 2020 would be balance.

And about March 2020 went….

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I thought it might be fun to do a review of what I’d hoped to accomplish this year.

What did I hope to write/accomplish in 2020?

  • Motts book 2 and 3
  • Podcast book 1 and 2
  • Patreon

Where am I at in December 2020?

  • Said goodbye to Patreon
  • Finished three novels instead of four
  • Started a cozy mystery group

Over all? Given we dove headfirst into a global pandemic this year?

Not bad. Better than I imagined.

How about 2021? What do I hope to achieve next year?

  • Motts book 3 and 4
  • Podcast book 3 and maybe 4
  • Start book one of a super secret project

How about you? How did you manage in 2020? And what are you hoping to do next year?