Before I start writing a book, I do a lot of prep work, including a lot of research on the Internet (thank goodness for Google) and a story timeline. The timeline is especially helpful if I’m writing a historical novel. But the most important thing I do, something I use every writing day, is a chapter outline.
A full novel is usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words. If I am doing 2,000-2,200 word chapters, that comes out to around forty chapters. So before I start, I do a complete outline of all the chapters – including titles – and write a blurb for what is going to happen in this chapter, the time frame, and what the result is. Each day I look at the complete outline and compare it to the chapters I’ve written to center myself in the story. Then I copy and paste the blurb to the beginning of the chapter I’m working on to keep it in front of me.
Here’s an example:
Joshua traces Williamson to the ill-fated Crawford expedition of 1782. Thinking that Williamson is dead, he abandons the search for Matthew and begins to look for Jonathan. After months of searching he learns that Jonathan has left for the east. Joshua follows him to New York where he has established a farm on Long Island. The meeting is awkward. Jonathan does not want to be reminded of his past. He has never re-married and lives his life grieving for Ruth and Matthew. He feels he can never be forgiven for killing Ruth. Joshua offers Jonathan the peace of the Lord, but Jonathan rejects him and orders him off the property. When he returns to Ohio, Joshua discovers that Williamson is still alive and tracks him down. When they meet Williamson tells him where Matthew is.
As I write the chapter, I refer to the blurb to make sure I’m staying on track. Sometimes I reach 2,000 words and I haven’t included everything from the blurb. In those cases, I cut and paste the section I did not complete out of the blurb and put it into the blurb for the next chapter. That way I don’t lose any of the elements I’m trying to include.
Using the above blurb as an example, when I wrote that particular chapter, I only got to the meeting between Jonathan and Joshua. So I cut out this section of the blurb: When he returns to Ohio, Joshua discovers that Williamson is still alive and tracks him down. When they meet Williamson tells him where Matthew is.
Then I pasted that into the blurb for the next chapter in the chapter outline. Interestingly enough, sometimes a whole new chapter will develop from this technique. If it does, just add it to your outline. I use a numbered list in Word for the outline; if I add a chapter, it automatically renumbers the following ones.
Best-selling author Patrick E. Craig is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful songwriting and performance career in the music industry to follow Christ in 1984. He spent the next 26 years as a worship leader, seminar speaker, and pastor in churches, and at retreats, seminars and conferences all across the western United States. In 2011 he signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. His current series is The Paradise Chronicles and the first book in the series, The Amish Heiress, was published by P&J Publishing in August of 2015 and remained on the Amazon bestseller lists for seven months. The second book in the Series, The Amish Princess, will be released in the fall of 2016. Patrick and his wife Judy make their home in Idaho and are the parents of two adult children and have five grandchildren. Patrick is represented by the Steve Laube Agency.