How I outline my novels

Right now I’m outlining my next novel – the second part of my pirate m/m romance trilogy. Outlining is essential to me – no pantsing here, thank you. Plotting takes a lot of time, especially when a lot of research is needed, but I’ve done enough mistakes to know that I can’t do without it. Today I thought I’d share the method I use when I’m outlining a story.

First, I don’t know if it can actually be called a method. After I’ve done all this some more times it can, probably, but right now I still spend the first weeks of a new project being lost and confused about what to do. I’m so relieved I’ve passed that phase, this time around.

The very first thing I do is that I write down everything I know about the story so far. Generally I write down all the little ideas that pop up, so I can go back later and use the ones that are good enough. When I know the beginning and ending I write a brief summary of the story, and then a much lengthier summary. What I want is to identify the main storyline, the major characters, and all the parts where I need more characters and more plot.

The next step is to do a lot of thinking and a bit of research to try and fill all those gaping plot holes. For some reason working titles are also very important to me, so I usually end up thinking of one around this point. I also come up with names for as many characters as I can. Calling them ‘X’ or ‘Y’ during the plotting stage just doesn’t work for me, I need names to get a feel of the character.

After this is done I’m ready to go into detail. First I decide upon a certain number of chapters – just to have something to work with. Then I write down the main event that will take place in each chapter, starting with the beginning and the ending and then just working my way through it until there’s something written after every chapter number.

Then comes the final stage of my outlining, where I write down around eight scenes for every chapter. I don’t know why I’ve settled for the number eight but it works, so I keep doing it. After doing this I go back, arrange the scenes chronologically and decide during which timeframe each chapter takes place. This gives me a detailed plan that’s easy to follow, but I can still add scenes during writing if I need to.

When all this is done I work on my characters, using character sheets mostly but also finding images so I know what they look like. And then there’s all the research, but let’s leave that for another blog post.

Do you outline, or do you prefer to make things up as you go along?


So, it might be time for an update. I haven’t blogged in forever because I wanted to focus on my fiction-writing, and fiction-writing takes time. So much time. It’s been going pretty good, though, and I’m about to start planning the second book in my pirate series. But there is even more exciting stuff happening, that I haven’t shared with you yet:

Entertaining the Sombrevilles is going to be published! It will be out on Less Than Three Press and I’m currently working on the final edits. I’m really happy to be working with LT3 and I hope the book will turn out well. I’ll be posting more details as soon as I can.

I also got myself a twitter account. I haven’t quite grasped how twitter works yet but if you want to follow me on there, I’m elvirabell_.

Book baby

Two babies

I’m working on a new project (sort of) and that means, of course, that I had the pleasure of naming a bunch of new characters. Which is one of my favourite things about writing – the kind of fun, easy plotting that doesn’t take that much time and allows you to experiment with name meanings, intertextual references, and so on. For my current project I wanted simple, common names, popular in Britain today, so there wasn’t much etymological research involved. Sometimes I try to come up with names that reveal something about the character, and it’s amazing when you finally find the perfect name for someone.

The best site for name research is, in my opinion, Behind the Name. All of those naming sites are quite obviously marketed at parents-to-be, rather than authors, but I’d guess we make up a significant amount of their visitors. We have babies too – because I can’t imagine I’m the only one who sees my stories and characters as something small and precious that I need to take great care of.

The babies in the picture have nothing to do with this post, of course, but they are too cute for this world and had to be there. Fact: all babies should wear little bunny ear hats like that.

For today I am a writer

Day off today, and I am absolutely thrilled about it. There are lots of writing-related projects and ideas in my head right now, too many to keep up with, but I’m doing my best. Here’s what I’m currently focusing on:

Wavesongs: Plotting, plotting, plotting. And after that I need to do research, and more plotting. I’m really looking forward to the actual writing, but I won’t get ahead of myself this time.

Entertaining the Sombrevilles: I need to do something with it, because it’s basically finished. Still pondering this.

Erotic short stories: I have a lot of these by now. What to do about them?

I’m totally absorbed by books and words right now, and I love it. Working on a story, or reading a great book, is the best feeling in the world.

On another note, I watched Crimson Peak recently and oh my God, Tom Hiddleston. ❤ I haven’t given him much thought before but boy, is he amazing. And handsome. Very handsome. Why aren’t there more movies like that? I’m so, so weak for anything gothic. I’d love to write gothic gay fiction stories because that combination would be simply divine.

By any other name

Right now, I’m thinking about creating a pen name for when I’m writing erotica. I’ve been a bit indecisive about publishing those stories, but a good friend of mine told me she really thought I should, and I do want to get the stories out there – just having them on my computer feels incomplete somehow. I haven’t done any editing at all so far, and there are lots of things to be done with each story. But hopefully I’ll have something to self-pub in the end – I’ll keep you posted.