March and Monday blew in sunny… and exciting.


To start with, I came up with the overall story sentences for the last three books in the series. These are broad, general sentences (no more than 30 words apiece) that just include both the good guys , the ambivalent guys, and the bad guys, and the big issue between them in each of the three remaining books.

Got that completely finished.

Next I started the detail outlining of Book 3 — first coming up with an overall concept for what the action of the middle book needs to be, and then outlining with 30-words-or-fewer sentences for each chapter. These sentences let me understand the single most important thing that needs to happen in that part of the book.

I’m shortcutting a bit, doing just one sentence per chapter, because while I almost always have two or even three scenes in a chapter, I’ve discovered that some of the very best scenes I get come spontaneous follow-ups in-chapter to the planned scenes.

I write best when I give myself a fair amount of elbow room. An absolute maximum of thirty words per chapter gives me that.

When I’m done with the Line-For-Chapter outline for book three, I’ll start writing the third novel… because…

I know there is absolutely no point in outlining (even provisionally) for books 4 and 5, because my very best stuff in each novel arises from my spontaneous fighting against the outline, and no matter what I planned for 4 and 4, by the time I’ve written 3, I’ll be able to do something better.

So, that was my writing day. Off to do all the rest of the stuff.

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By Holly

Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

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Mike Lucas
Mike Lucas
2 years ago

Interesting what you say about only outlining one scene per chapter because of the spontaneous ones that tend to appear on their own. I’ve noticed the same is true for a lot of the students following your methods (e.g. in the How To Think Sideways and How To Write a Novel classes), including yours truly! We often tend to get an extra scene, sometimes two, for every one we plan. A lot of the time those extra scene, I find, are the ones that surprise you — unexpected twists, or little moments of heart that give new color to the story. So it’s definitely a feature, not a bug! 🙂

Knowing this, it definitely makes sense to plan less scenes than you want to end up with.

Holly Lisle
Reply to  Mike Lucas
2 years ago

Yeah. I never write the book I plan, anyway — but if I didn’t plan, I’d never write at all.

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