Outlining Characters and Summary For a New Novel Project

As a writer, author, and criminologist, I find that I wear a variety of hats throughout my working day.  Writing, editing, promotion, researcher, and expert are just to name a few.  One of my favorite hats is when I’m beginning a new book – that particular hat is outliner and researcher merged together.  I get really excited all over again, just like it’s my first novel.

The BIG question I hear more than most, “How long does it take to write a novel?”  I can confidently say on average it takes eight months to a year for a feature, full-length book project – at least for me. 

I’m at the beginning stages of my third Emily Stone novel, Dark Mind.  I thought it would be fun to share some of my writing procedures as I move through this project.  I’ve been bouncing around the storyline for some time and creating new characters to round out the cast in my head.  I’ve also written out free style paragraphs of the beginning, middle, and ending for this story. 

Keep in mind that sometimes the storyline can take an unsuspected turn or a minor character may decide to be more to the story.  It depends upon which way my creative muse will take me.  I’ve ironed out subplots and most of the story evolution.   

Basically, I have a preliminary outline (before a complete outline) that consists of:

  • Character backgrounds and profiles in as much detail as possible.  It’s almost like I’m writing a full profile of all of the information included for each character – even the minor characters.
  • Settings and research areas; making lists of what I need to research and how I will go about it.  Research is a funny thing because there are always those little, nagging things that you need to research that you didn’t originally note.
  • Basic plot outline in paragraph format.
  • Summary outline that includes, beginning, middle, and ending of the story.  I begin to see if I have a story that will support my main theme and subplots.  At this point, sometimes I have to rework if I need to or I can go full steam ahead.
  • Miscellaneous notes that include crime timelines (motive, clues, etc.), fact sheets, character background timelines, and subplots.

Once I feel satisfied with the above areas, I move into my plot evolution.  This is where I examine the pacing and begin to think about individual chapters.  Sometimes, I make changes if something in the storyline bothers me or it doesn’t seem to fit right.  I keep moving forward and fine tuning my outline that will eventually become my choppy first draft.

About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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2 Responses to Outlining Characters and Summary For a New Novel Project

  1. David Holmes says:

    Organization is the key to success. I’m organized in an unorganized manner, and its frustrating. I have too many ideas floating through same cave that my mind occupies. I’m embroiled in marketing my current book, getting ready to launch the next one, and creating the one after that. I’m glad I’m in contact with you, as I hope to gain stability from your own organization. My goal is national coverage, and I know I need a good story to do that.


    • Organization is the key. Some days I feel very organized and on top of everything I have to do, but other days… well, I want to pull my hair out. I find that if you accomplish something every day, no matter how small, you will get to where you want to go. I’m having to rebuild my blog (among other things), and it’s daunting, but I love blogging so I’m making peace with it. Thank you for your support. Glad that we connected.


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