Authors, Writers, Publishers, and Book Readers

Characters are dominating your thoughts, your fingers are itching to type and the beginning of a great story fills your computer screen.  Then...silence. You reach that point in your story where your characters take a coffee break and you are left with writer's block.

This has happened to me more times than I wish to admit. The story my thoughts have been obsessed with are eventually filed away and forgotten. It is so frustrating.

New characters are once again running amuck in my head. This time I refuse to allow them to check out on me halfway through the story. My professor, Steve Alcorn, taught me that outlining is a wonderful technique. I agree it is a great idea. Today I read an article written by author Randy Ingermanson. Randy's technique is the Snowflake method. I am excited to use this method and thought I would share it with fellow authors. Let me know your thoughts.


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Comment by Larry A Cochran on May 6, 2013 at 2:35am

I would have to say that both are extremely important in the writing process. I have much success if the outline gives me a blueprint or guideline and the freewriting just helps me go in directions I may not have thought of before.


Comment by Katie McKnight on May 6, 2013 at 3:45am

Hi Al - You are my dream author.  I love mysteries and am dying to write one. I completed a Mystery Writer's class given by Steve Alcorn and have some ideas I want to get on paper.  Unfortunately, the characters in those stories aren't screaming as loud as the characters in the suspenseful novels I tend to prioritize. 

Comment by Katie McKnight on May 6, 2013 at 3:47am

Hi Larry,  I am intrigued with the outline idea.  Tonight I listed the questions suggested by the e-zine and from my class.  I agree, freewriting does allow us to go in different directions.  It sometimes feels as though someone else has taken the story over.  I read it and think, good stuff.  LOL

Thank you both for commenting.

Comment by Katie McKnight on May 7, 2013 at 1:14am

Alright. I am going to try it again.  While I was vacuuming I actually had a conversation going in my head between two characters that have yet to meet.  Secrets Revealed was the first novel of mine to be published (not yet. It is due in August).  I wrote that freestyle so I must have done something right.  I think I'm too impulsive to write an outline anyway -- did I mention the conversation going in my head earlier - LOL.


Comment by Katie McKnight on May 9, 2013 at 1:42am
thank you Al. I am excited and nervous at the same time. I am sure all writers can relate to the nervous feeling associated with putting your work out there for the public to read.
Comment by Scott L. MIller on May 9, 2013 at 5:32am

Funny, I thought the post was about the article. Outlining can be useful but it can also go too far. I've listened to Jeffery Deaver speak and he takes it to the extreme, writing 200-300 page outlines for 8 months, then only spending 4 to write his novel. While he is wildly popular, careful reads of his novels reveal no nice, subtle turn of phrase or use of metaphor. His book is plot and sub-plot driven, with little character development, though his novels are entertaining. Dennis LeHane, a personal fav, does brief outlines, outlining a beginning, middle and end, but lets the novel grow and form as he writes, which I think is where the magic in writing enters. I believe Ridley Pearson does pretty much the same. Minimum, you have to have the end in mind I believe. Another school of thought suggests the writer starts at the end and works backward in writing a novel. Just some thoughts from a fellow author...minus plugs.

Comment by Katie McKnight on May 9, 2013 at 12:54pm
Scott, I have decided to do both. I have outlined the "three acts" I learned about in school (if anyone wants me to provide the sub categories in each act let me know)m the protagonist and antag's flaws and the end. Naturally, I included character outlines too. The rest I am going to write freehand. I completed chapter 6 last night, so hopefully this will be a happy medium and I will finish this manuscript without too much pain. Thank you for the tips.
Comment by Katie McKnight on May 9, 2013 at 3:09pm

Hi Scott, I posted something to you earlier today but it must not have been accepted.  I agree about having the end in mind as well as the beginning and middle.  After much consideration, I have decided to use the three act outline (I can provide the subcategories of the three act outline if anyone is interested) that I learned in mystery writing, so that my characters do start off on the right path.  From there, I will allow them to branch off and create their own story.  As far as the end, I have a vivid picture in my head how the story should end.  Keeping the end in mind, I hope to complete the manuscript with little pain.  Who knows, somewhere along the line, the characters may decide their own happy ending.  Good luck and thanks for commenting.

Comment by Jack B. Strandburg on May 15, 2013 at 3:41pm

I'm one that needs a road map. I've approached writing a number of ways over the past 22+ years and stalled when freewriting, even four chapters at a time as suggested by one author. Outlining for me means having all (or most) of my issues resolved around where (setting) who (character) and what (event) so I can "follow the dots" and write the draft. Naturally, coming up with additional twists and even characters will enter into the mix but I use Microsoft Excel to track so I don't get lost and misstate something, someone, somewhere and possibly leave subplots unresolved.


Comment by Nolah Reed on May 17, 2013 at 5:14am

Hi Katie!

Thanks for sharing the snowflake method. Interesting. Very methodical, therefore, not for me, but then, I don't have six published novels either.

There are certainly many methods out there and whichever one works for you and the way you write is completely subjective is the way you should go. It's not an exact science, at least not in my opinion.

My stories are character driven and I do make out profiles for them, birthdays, quirks, histories when I get stuck moving forward. If I know what motivates them, what they really want and how they would act when presented with a given situation, the log jam, or "writer's block" disappears. Not always immediately. It is frustrating, but all part of this game.

Best of luck with your writing project!


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