Questions 234: Writing Prompts and Outlines

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Mike asks:
“Is writing from a prompt or a trigger an advanced skill? Will writing to an outline sabotage my development?”

Resources mentioned:
Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues

The Coffee Service by J. Daniel Sawyer

Sculpting God by J. Daniel Sawyer

Writing Into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith

Psycho IV

One thought on “Questions 234: Writing Prompts and Outlines”

  1. Daniel,

    Fantastic episode. And I’m coming around to writing into the dark. A bit of background. I’ve written…over a dozen manuscripts, published four books, four stories, almost all of them with some sort of outline. Yeah, even the shorts (which are actually novealla length). Late in 2016, I took two workshops with Dean–Speed and Depth–and a light bulb turned on with my writing.

    As of this year, I’m striving to write much more than I’ve ever done before. And, most surprisingly for me, I’m doing it without outlines. To date, I’m on my second novel of the year and the flow is going along better than I would have ever expected. And, to your point about not being tied to an outline, I’ve actively resisted outlining when I got stuck in the middle of book #2. I still have a full-time day job so my 4:30 am writing time is about the only hour a day I get to write. Sure, I sometimes gestate during the day and resolve an issue, but have resisted the immediate rush to start an outline. I am solving any issues I have on the screen as I write.

    Here’s another little tactic I tried in January and it enabled that month’s book to flow much more easily than almost any other book I’ve written. I’m writing a new series western–think The Wild Wild West more than Gunsmoke–and I just started reading a few of the Longarm novels. While my stories are not adult, I noticed how the novels were structured. Many of the ghost writers use approximately 20 chapters to tell the story. So in my Scrivener program, I set up 20 chapters and told my tale in that frame work, allowing for multiple sub-sections as necessary. Some chapters have only one main section, other might have four. But having that scaffolding in place has freed up the mental energy to focus solely on story.

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