Skip to content

Category: Productivity

My Outlining Process (with Examples!)

I received the following Ask on Tumblr but figured the answer warranted a more detailed post here, too.


You may have already talked about this at some point, but I was wondering if you could talk about how your outlining process works? It sounds stupid because I know there are a ton of different ways to outline but I don’t really know how to outline at all….?


Hey there! You’re correct—there are a ton of different ways to outline, and none of them are wrong, though some may be better for you and the way you write than others. In fact, I often outline differently for each project. Sometimes it’s about refining my outlining strategy to fit my writing style; others it’s very particular to the book that I’m working.

I wrote about the way I outlined and drafted A Darkly Beating Heart in this blog post, and reviewed a couple of other different strategies for making outlining work for you, if you haven’t previously been an outliner, in this post.

For this post, I’ll do something a little different, and walk you through how I’m tackling the book I’m drafting right now: a middle grade novel called Ghosts of Grimley. I’m usually extremely secretive and protective of the things I’m drafting, especially if they aren’t under any sort of contract, but I feel like this book excellently exemplifies how I’m approaching outlining of late. So… *deep breath* I’m gonna dangle my ugly baby in front of you all and ask you to kindly not mock it too much.

I started with the central idea of my book. The spark that made me want to write it; the thing I absolutely could not take out of this book without it crumbling to nothingness.

Spark: A girl attending boarding school in a spooky Victorian tourist town gains the ability to see ghosts after a near-death experience.

Okay, so it’s a fun concept. But it isn’t a plot. To build a plot around it, I need to first think about what I want this concept to accomplish. These should, ideally, all be things that get you more excited to write the book. They don’t have to make sense or be any sort of coherent order:

  • Cool Victorian Spiritualist history to the town, rife with drama and murder
  • Ghosts going from being scary to being pretty obnoxious to making peace with them
  • Struggling with middle-grade friendships, especially when carrying a big secret you can’t share with your friends
  • Secret societies in the past and the present
  • Questioning the infallibility of grown-ups—knowing more than them or believing in things that they won’t believe
  • Ghost sisters!!! With SECRETS
  • (several very spoilery ideas omitted)

All right, now I’ve got some elements I can shape into a roughly plot-shaped heap. Now I’ll start looking at some of the established story structures from some of my favorite writing resources.

Story Engineering structures the plot into 4 quarters—roughly, a 25% first act, 50% middle act, and 25% third act—with different beats along the way.

Libby Hawker presents a character-driven method of challenge, failure, adaptation, re-challenge.

John Truby drills down to 22 kinds of story beats.

Some other options: Writing the Breakout Novel, Writer’s Digest: Plot & Structure.


I don’t use any one of these templates as gospel, nor do I particularly recommend doing so—it leads to what I call the “Matrix effect” in your storytelling. You know what I’m talking about—where if you consume enough media and study enough craft, you can suddenly see the Matrix code behind every. fargin’. book and movie you consume, and then you become that obnoxious person (me) who gives away all the major twists before they happen and then your husband just looks at you with a long-suffering sigh. (Sorry, honey.) Instead, I mix and match to design the structure that most speaks to the story I’m trying to tell.

Because Ghosts of Grimley is middle grade—and therefore a little bit of straightforwardness is acceptable—and because I want to focus on the character’s personal growth, I chose to mix the Story Engineering approach with the character-driven elements of Take Off Your Pants and Write.

So I pulled out my notebook and started with my main character, Ruby.

Goal: Gain better control of her newfound ability to communicate with ghosts. Help ghosts. Gain the credibility and respect of adults (later refined to her older brother and her absentee parents).

Flaw: Feels invisible and unimportant. No confidence in herself. Has a history of not being believed or taken seriously (parents too busy).

Now I know what personal challenge Ruby needs to overcome in the act of trying to solve the central trial of the book. I also filled out details for antagonists, allies, and other themes I wanted to address.

Then I got to the story structure.

OPENING: near-death experience while investigating the secret society.

Exploration: recovering from experience. No one believes about secret society. Seeing ghosts

INCITING INCIDENT (25%): ghost sister No. 1 comes to Ruby for help. Agrees, in exchange for information about the secret society, which ghost sister No. 1 claims to possess

And onward, using the various resources I mentioned above to inform what sort of shape I wanted the book to take. Because I wanted a character-focused book, I chose to focus on the mystery of the GHOST SISTERS WITH SECRETS to carry Ruby through the book and her trials of finding confidence and credibility, and set milestones for this thread along the 25%, 50%, 75%, etc markers, then used the other elements I wanted (friendship struggles, town history, helping other ghosts, etc) to fill in the spaces in between.

That gave me a one-page outline of bullet points. Then I took that outline and started fleshing it out into chapters, working through my bullet points to expand them into something more plotty. For my Inciting Incident chapter (ghost sister comes to Ruby for help), that looked roughly like this:


Chapter 5

  • Ruby awakens to ghost at foot of bed. It’s woman who attacked w/ parasol. I know you can see me.

  • Ugh what do you want go away

  • You can see me. I need your help. I want to be able to leave, too.

  • Why do you think I can help? Bc you can find out things. we’re ghosts because we’ve got unresolved issues—I’LL SAY—and you can help me resolve them

  • Lady I got problems of my own. Like cult?

  • …I can help you with those. How? I know things. I can go places you can’t. but you have to help me, too

  • is this ghost seriously bargaining with me? Ok fine. You have a deal. What do you want to know?

  • I need your help finding my sister. I need to know how she died (or maybe tell her I’m sorry)


And so on, until I’d worked through the whole book.

By this point, I had a really good feel for the themes and stories I wanted to weave into this book, but I didn’t have as good a grasp on my main characters (allies and antagonists) as I wanted. So I found a couple of different character sheets online, and ultimately chose to use the same one I’d used for the Series Bible for The Witch Who Came In From the Cold, because I loved the details about how characters react, how they dress and speak, etc.

Once I’d fleshed my main characters out and jotted down a couple other notes about theme, atmosphere, and other elements (I’d decided Ruby wanted to be a photographer, and therefore wanted to include a recurring theme of Ruby mentally framing shots in her head), I felt ready to begin drafting.

Kind of.

The above chapter-by-chapter outline is fairly detailed, but it still isn’t down to the level of granularity I like to have before me when I’m actually writing. When I’m drafting, I want to know pretty much beat by beat where I’m headed, so I can focus on writing the sentences themselves well without also having to juggle the mental burden of figuring out how they connect to one another. (NOTE: Another way to try outlining, if you find this too restrictive, is to reverse this—write out all the thematic/atmospheric/emotional elements you want in a chapter while leaving the who/what open for you to explore as you write.) I also inevitably find new cool story threads cropping up while I write, and want to weave them into the later chapters.

So just before I dive into the next chapter, I take the bulleted chapter description from above and expand it even further to give me detailed beat by beat notes, like so:


Chapter 5

  • R awakens to eerie blue light. Hisses at K to step away from the fanfic and go to sleep. But it’s not K. Weird chill; eyelashes feel frozen together. Smell like wilted flowers. WTH.

  • Rustle of fabric. Faint whisper of Ruby’s name like from inside her head. Glance toward window. Faint blue glow reflecting from inside room. Deep breath. Can’t be afraid.

  • Looks to foot of bed. Jumps. Woman from before w/ parasol. What the heck are you doing?! Leave me alone!

  • Don’t want to wake your friend. Beckons. I know you can see me. That’s why I need your help.

  • Slips out of bedroom, follow me. Goes to communal bathroom—safest place to talk. Has to wait for R to open door. Can’t open it yourself? Dirty look. I can just walk through it. But I was trying to be polite.

  • Huddle in farthest changing stall. Younger than thought—maybe around Jivan’s age or a little older. Name’s Mildred. Mildred Crouse. Why do you need my help?

  • Because you can see us. The ghosts.

  • R cringes. Is that really what you are? Mildred: Isn’t it obvious? We’re restless spirits. Stuck to this earth bc of unresolved business. R wriggles eyebrows. Really? You ALL have unresolved business. Who decides what’s resolved and what’s not?

  • Do you want to help me settle my business or not? R sighs. I’ve got enough of my own problems. Crazy cultists trying to kill me. M: Yes, well . . . perhaps I can be assistance there.

  • Um what? how? Leans forward; rotten smell intensifies. Yikes this lady needs shower. Can ghosts shower? Can’t even open doors…

  • I know plenty about the cultists. And I can go places you can’t. But you have to help me, too. So I can be at rest.

  • Why do ghosts always want to be at rest anyway? Isn’t it cool that get to stick around? HUFF that’s not the point. Do we have a deal?

  • I dunno. Sounds suspiciously like blackmail. M: Let’s just call it mutually beneficial arrangement. R considers. One adult who seems to get it. OK fine. Holds out hand to shake but M snorts. Makes big show of gripping hand but passes through. In my day we took blood oath, but that’s out of question, too.

  • R: ugh god so wordy. What is it you want to know?

  • I’m trying to find my sister, Minerva Crouse. Turns serious, glances down. I need to know how she died. And if she’s a ghost, too.



Note that I try to keep markers in there to remind myself bits and pieces about atmosphere, mood, personality, etc as well as just plot, because when you’re writing very quickly, it is easy to let those details slide. I try to get the basic flow of dialogue down without worrying too much about speaker tags and so on, because I should have a pretty good idea who would say what. And if it gets expanded in the writing, that is perfectly fine.

Now it’s time to write. I set a 30-minute timer, and all of that work turns into this (only an excerpt of last portion):


Millicent looked down at her pointed boots for a moment. It was the expression Mom got whenever Jivan and I would fight, like she was gathering up the energy to yell at us. “I am aware of this . . . cult. So perhaps I can be of assistance.”

“You know who they are?” I leaned forward, now wide awake. As I got closer to her, the rotting smell intensified. Yikes. Millicent needed a shower. Could ghosts use showers? She couldn’t even open a door for herself, after all.

“Oh, yes. I know a great many things about them.” She smiled sadly. “I have a great deal of time on my hands, as you can imagine. And I can go places you can’t. Slip around unseen.”

My heart pounded in my ears. She could help me get proof the cult existed. Maybe even find out who the members were! Then I could go to the police. Convince them I wasn’t imagining it.

Millicent raised her chin. Without her hat, I could finally see her eyes—or rather, the horrible black holes where her eyes belonged, deep as graves. And those weren’t just bags under her eyes. They were streaked with dried blood.

Maybe I didn’t want to know how she died after all.

“I’ll find out whatever it is that you wish to know,” she said. “But first . . . you must help me be at rest.”

“Why do you want to be at rest, anyway? I mean, you get to live beyond death. Isn’t that cool? Don’t you want to stick around as long as you can?” I was yammering away now. Anything to distract myself from those horrible eyes.

Millicent exhaled loudly. “That isn’t the point! Do we have an agreement, or not?”

“I dunno . . . It does sound suspiciously like you’re blackmailing me.”

She pressed her lips into a thin smile. “Let’s just call it a mutually beneficial arrangement.”

I rubbed my chin. On the one hand, it sounded a whole lot like she was going to use me to get what she wanted and give me only a little bit of information in return. But on the other hand—she actually believed me. Knew what I was going through. And if she could help me find something, anything to prove to everyone what I’d seen . . .

“All right. You have a deal.”

I held my hand out to shake, but she laughed, and made a big show of trying to grip my hand. She passed right through me with a rush of cold.

“In my day, we took a blood oath,” Millicent said. “But I’m afraid that’s out of the question now, as well.”

I rubbed my hand back and forth on my fleece pajama pants to warm it up. “So what is it you want to know?”

Millicent clutched her hat with both hands. “I’m looking for my twin sister, Minerva Crouse.” Her voice was far softer than before. “I need to know how she died. And whether she’s a ghost, too.”


No, I didn’t follow the outline precisely. As I wrote, I found new ways to weave it together and work in fresh details I hadn’t thought of. But that’s what relieving the mental burden of figuring out the plot as I wrote it allows me to do.

You may be thinking, “Good grief. That sounds like an obscene amount of busywork.” And it is a lot, I know. But let me tell you—it goes fast. It takes me maybe a day or two to get my first bulleted plot sketch written down, then another day or two to break it into chapters. Then the beat by beat for each chapter is 30 minutes to an hour. I’ll typically do these over lunch, while dinner’s in the oven, or before bed. Sometimes I can outline a whole chapter while waiting on the quick match queues for Heroes of the Storm to pop. (I can feel my accountabilibuddy judging me from here fyi)

Then there’s the actual writing. Without an outline, I think on my best days, I was averaging 800-1000 words an hour, painstakingly trying to shape my story and my words at the same time. And so often, I would have to backtrack, erase, or tear apart and drastically rework those words. My first published novel, Sekret, got rewritten eight times. Eight. Because each time I wrote it, I only had about eight or ten plot points in my head, and I tried to string everything else together going by instinctive story shape alone.

With an outline, I’m averaging 2500-3500 words an hour. And so far, an immeasurable amount of time saved on the revising end. Because for me, it’s so much easier to fix plot problems while they’re still bullet points than when they’re 35,000-word chunks of text.

So that’s the system that’s working for me right now. I have no doubt I’ll add, change, and drop elements as I use it more. I’d love to hear what’s working for you!

1 Comment

Further Thoughts on Outlining

I’m completely overwhelmed by everyone’s response to my post about how I improved my writing speed. Thank you so much! It’s very gratifying to hear that it resonated with so many of you, and I’d love to hear more about your results. I also got some great questions, and quite a lot of “But what do I do if I HATE outlining?” so I’d love to address some of the common ones.


I hate outlining because it robs me of the joy of discovery [or other reasons]. Am I a lost cause?

Of course not! Different things work for different people. I know there are writers who can really get into the “zone” on a story, and crank out an entire novel–without an outline–in extremely short periods of time. I do think that on the whole, however, un-outlined stories are slower to draft because of the cognitive load problem I mentioned in the original post. So if you really, truly hate the idea of outlining because you think it will ruin the joy of discovery, then try finding some other aspect of your writing that you can offload in advance. Give yourself a starting point and ending point for a scene, and sketch in some sensory or thematic details. Then you’re doing less of the “setting the stage” work in your head while you write while still feeling the joy of discovering what your characters will do next. Or you can do a lot more character work beforehand–worksheets with information about how they speak, their dark secrets, their feelings toward other characters, etc–that you can refer to as you go rather than having to make each up on the spot.


No matter what I try, I can’t seem to push past XX words a day. Any tips?

Usually, when I’m having a hard time meeting a word count goal, it’s because I either a) haven’t done the work to know what the thing I’m writing is actually about, or b) have run my creative well dry and am not keeping it suitably refilled. I can usually tell if it’s the former because I just get blocked and stare aimlessly around with no idea what should happen next; I can tell it’s the latter because every sentence I write sounds the same and my characters are just empty mannequins who shrug their shoulders and frown a lot while having lengthy stretches of dialogue that goes nowhere.

If your problem is A, try this: pull out a piece of paper. At the very bottom, write the next major thing that you know you need to have happen. Then use the remaining space to chart a course toward that thing from where you are right now (or possibly even a little bit before).

If your problem is B: take a deep breath. Step away. If you have time to spare, give yourself some time away to read, watch an inspiring TV show, take a brainstorming walk, or otherwise do something that isn’t beating your head against the keyboard. When you’re ready, put yourself back into your story, but focus on those sensory details you’re missing. Reconnect with the worldbuilding and setting, whether it’s a middle school cafeteria (sticky tabletops, green linoleum, noseprints on the windows? go nuts) or a fantasy high cathedral (thin shafts of light streaming into the darkness, dust motes on the air, your character’s heavy mantel making them sweat and slicking their hair to their neck). For me, the challenge in keeping my writing feeling fresh is in inviting others’ words and worlds and phrases and thoughts into my head, and that means not neglecting my fiction reading, either. Fresh exposure to new storylines and language helps my brain slowly digest and remix things into something hopefully new, and keeps my sentence-writing muscle all limbered up.


I just can’t write every day.

Neither can I. So I don’t. My creative energy is really awesome Monday through Wednesday, sucks dirt on Thursdays, and is a total mixed bag through the weekend. And when I finish a big project, I always take a week or two off (schedule permitting). So I write when I can. Just don’t use it as an excuse. There’s a big difference between “I cannot write right now” and “I really could write right now and really should write right now but I’m going to let inertia carry me on to scroll through Tumblr for a few more hours until I fall asleep.” If you’re procrastinating, and you know you’re procrastinating, look at the reasons as to why. Procrastination usually comes from fear, a lack of confidence about one’s ability to proceed, and/or a lack of understanding as to how to proceed. With outlining, you are breaking the steps down into manageable chunks so you can at least tackle the last of these. The other two, we’ll address at a later time.


Have you tried changing up your writing process? How is it going?




How I Nearly Doubled My Yearly Word Count in 2015 and My Plans for 2016

You know the cognitive fallacy about how people who drive slower than you are morons and people who drive faster than you are maniacs? Writers have a tendency to treat other writers’ productivity much the same way. People who write too slow aren’t taking the craft seriously or approaching it like a business, we cry. People who write too fast (whatever “too” means) are probably hacks. And deep down, we all fear being unserious hacks.

For this reason–the critical voice inside my head, the one that I’m convinced is only echoing what real people think–I’ve long resisted publicizing my word count data. But I was discussing the major changes I made in 2015 that have helped me improve my drafting speed on Twitter the other day, and I figure nothing proves my point better than yummy data.

So here are my yearly word counts: (eek! deep breaths.)

2013 (the first year I started tracking): 207,368

2014: 272,226

2015: 485,226

While I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t double my word count, I’m extremely pleased with the results–a 1.8x increase.

I deliberately made several changes to how I approach projects in 2015, and I strongly believe those changes account for the bulk of that improvement. I’ll address those changes below. But first, I will acknowledge a few other factors that probably contributed that are far more subjective. I’ll try to extract the useful bits from those to motivate myself in the future so I can learn from them without having to replicate those conditions.

1. Extremely Tight Deadlines.

In late 2014/early 2015, I had a fourth book contracted with Roaring Brook/Macmillan, but had not yet gotten my editor to sign off on a particular project for that book. According to the contract we’d signed back in 2013, that book was due by May of 2015. We didn’t settle on a project until February of 2015. When I got my editor’s blessing to write that book, I had nothing more than a paragraph pitch for it and less than one page of atmospheric text I’d jotted down late one night when the main character’s voice came to me during a shower brainstorming session. So I had no choice but to take the book from “idea” to “finished manuscript” as quickly as possible, or face the possibility that the project could be delayed to a 2017 release. This time pressure plus the techniques I then used (which I’ll discuss in a minute) allowed me to outline this book in 3 weeks, write it in 5, and revise it in 2. While I don’t relish the thought of working on such a short deadline all the time, I did find the “almost but not quite impossible” time constraint motivating.

2. Make It or Break It Time.

I experienced quite a bit of turmoil in my day job in the second half of 2015, and gave serious consideration to the possibility that writing may have to serve as my primary source of income. I had no choice but to aggressively pursue every writing opportunity I came across. At times, the day-job stress motivated me to write more, but at other times, I was too overwhelmed to consider writing. I gained a newfound respect for full-time writers (and the amount of time they must spend chasing down payments owed!) For my own sanity, I think a stable paycheck relieves a lot of this stress, but a small sense of “this is my career, this is what I have to do” motivated me to push myself when otherwise I might have blown off writing or been satisfied with a smaller daily output.

Now let’s talk about what techniques I deliberately employed to improve my word count.


1. Diversity of Projects.

In 2015, I wrote short stories, I wrote episodes for a multi-author serialized tale, I wrote novels, I wrote treatments/proposals, I wrote fanfiction, I wrote freelance projects with the gleeful abandon of someone with no emotional attachment and therefore no internal critic. If I got stuck, bored, or irritated with one project, I had plenty of other ones I could switch to instead.

Not everyone is wired this way, and I get that. But “structured procrastination” (the semi-official term for avoiding one task by completing another task) really works for me. While working on Task A, Task B becomes the embodiment of all that is holy and perfect and joyful in my rebellious mind, and it resolves itself–it untangles itself–it comes up with all kinds of newer, cooler ways to tackle its characters and settings and arcs. Once I either finish work on Task A or hit a wall with it and succumb to Task B’s siren song, I’m refreshed and ready to dive into it anew.

Case in point: I spent all of March and April outlining, drafting, and revising the first version of A Darkly Beating Heart (the contracted book I mentioned above). I’m not used to crashing hard on a single project this way without tinkering on anything else. While I had the tight deadline to meet keeping me on track with ADBH, however, when my work was done for the day, my mind started splashing around in the dregs of an old, old manuscript that I’ve long wanted to revisit. I turned in ADBH, took two weeks off to celebrate my birthday/celebrate meeting my deadline/not do anything/go on the Fierce Reads tour, and then immediately cranked out a 35K partial rewrite of said old manuscript, drunk on all the new ideas I’d formulated while working on ADBH.

If this approach resonates with you, by all means, give it a shot! But there is something to be said for hunkering down and finishing a single project, your muse and their fickle desires be damned. Either way, learn from my tears: WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN. Those dumb shower thoughts and those ah-ha! moments in the middle of the night for Project B (or A, or C, or X)–WRITE IT DOWN. You will NOT remember it. You want to have those ideas available to you when the time comes to use them.

2. Outlining.

I can hear all you pantsers groaning already, I know. I once was one of you. I held about 5-8 major plot points in my head and then let myself loose. (See above note about not writing things down . . . I know the pain of forgetting that Cool Plot Twist I’d spent the whole book building toward.)

Then I started having to revise the books I’d written that way. And revise them again and again. Then my poor unsuspecting editor liked those books, and asked me to revise them again. Eventually, I reached the point where it took me eight times as long to revise a book as it took to write it–largely because I hadn’t sat down to write it with a clear, deliberate plan in mind, and was constantly having to hunt down loose plot threads to weave back into place, snip out, or redo entirely.

In 2015, I was already getting more comfortable with outlining simply because a) I write stupidly complicated books (and knew I wasn’t going to stop doing that) and b) I was working on a massive multi-author project that left me with no choice but to plan everything out in advance. I’d read Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love and enjoyed some success from sketching out a scene before I wrote it. With A Darkly Beating Heart, I decided to finally try applying this on a novel-length scale.

First, I wrote out those 5-8 major beats I knew I wanted to include. Then I connected the dots between them, while drawing some brief character sketches alongside the outline so I could find fun character weaknesses to exploit for plot points and profit. This gave me about 30 bullet points to work with. I tweaked those for a while, wrote out some thematic elements I wanted to tackle, integrated those more fully into the bullet points, and broke the book into rough thirds.

Then I took that outline and converted it into chapter-by-chapter detailed beats, with 8-10 beats per chapter. And then . . . I wrote.


Here’s the thing. My brain–and yours, and everyone else’s–can only process so much data at once. And when I wasn’t outlining my book, I was simultaneously trying to figure out the “what” of what happened in my scene–the actual beats of action that occurred–at the same time that I was sorting out the “how”–the pretty bits of prose and dialogue and theme and conflict that those beats revealed. By outlining, I offloaded the “what” to a sheet of paper. I didn’t have to hold it in my brain any longer. It was already figured out and conveniently stored for me in a notebook that I could glance at while I typed. That freed up my brainpower to dedicate itself fully to all the fussy details of metaphors and atmosphere and dialogue lines and theme and angst (always angst). I still got improvise and be creative while following my outline. If anything, I had more creativity than before, because I wasn’t bogged down by dealing with the structural aspect of my book, too.

And guess what? My editor said it was the cleanest draft she’d ever seen from me. By a lot.

If outlining is abhorrent and painful to your soul, then I get it. There is absolutely a great value in carefully nurturing and growing a manuscript, pruning and weeding as you go (or at least making notes as to what to prune and weed and replant later). But for speed, I found outlining to be the single most powerful change I made.

If you want another take on outlining aside from Rachel Aaron’s, I also highly recommend Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing. It’s useful for story structure, yes, but I found a great deal of value into her approach to twining character motivations and flaws with story architecture, and frankly, I’m a little mad I didn’t use some of these techniques in my already-published books. Again, these are all elements that, by doing the “what” work ahead of time, they freed up my brainpower to make better “how”s as I wrote.


“‘And Alexander wept, for he had no more worlds left to conquer.’ The benefits of a classical education.”

3. Striving.

This ties in to my experience above of feeling a sense of “make it or break it.” But no matter what stage you’re in with your writing career, I think it’s helpful to always stay hungry. Keep your eyes on that new market, that next book deal, that added stage of success. For me, this means continuing to diversify my writing by trying new media, genres, and categories while continuing to sell stories in the ones I’ve already sold in. For you, maybe that means landing an agent, or seeing your next book debut on the bestsellers list.

We all know those authors who have permanent spots on the NYT list, multi-season award-winning TV shows based on their series, and a manuscript that’s several years overdue . . . Yeah. They’re probably not feeling the pressure, no matter how many angry fans tweet at them. Feel it. Embrace it. Find the right amount of pressure you need in order to keep you productive without being totally overwhelmed, and keep that pressure on. Enlist an accountabilibuddy to keep you on track, and for you to nag and send creepy intimidating photos to when they’re slacking, too.


Looking Ahead

In 2016, I’m going to focus on refining these techniques–better outlines, more useful outlines, more cool projects for my brain to willingly crunch–and look toward a higher level of satisfaction with my results. For me, this means finishing projects and exploring new areas (genres/media/categories). I’m not going to focus on word count as much (though I still want to at least match my 2015 results) but I am going to look at finishing a number of side-projects that have never really gotten their day in the sun. However, unless I keep refining the above techniques, I have no doubt I’ll see a slide in my word count, so keeping that high is still important to me.

What does 2016 look like for you? Do you have a project just begging to finally, finally reach THE END? A new idea far outside your wheelhouse that you nonetheless want to explore? Are you looking to change up your writing approach to see better results? Tell me in the comments and I’ll work it into the next post!