Saturday, May 27, 2017

7 Steps to Outlining Your Novel (When You're NOT a Plotter)

A pantser is someone who, "flies by the seat of their pants," meaning they don't plan out anything, or plan very little.
~The Magic Violinist,
The Write Practice: The Pros & Cons of Plotters & Pantsers

I'm a hardcore pantser. I've never been much into outlines, and when I try to write one, I fail miserably. I have a half-decent idea of where I want my story to go -- but how do I get there? I've tried storyboarding. I've tried the synopsis method. I'm currently reading Randy Ingermanson's How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method (and am beginning to realize that it just won't work for me).

The thing is, I need an outline. It's been one of my goals to write and finish one by the time summer roles around, so I can make some serious headway on my WIP. So this Tuesday, during my lunch break, I pulled out my favourite notebook and began taking a few notes. By the time I was finished, I had seven steps for outlining your novel... when you're a pantser.



Pinterest: The ultimate tool for ultimate procrastination.

How to use this step:
  1. Create a secret (or non-secret) board for your story.
  2. Edit the description to be a one-sentence summary for the direction you want your novel to take. (Example: During the Regency, a middle-class woman and an upper class gentleman fall in love, but must face the trials of pride, prejudice, and social boundaries along the way.)
  3. Find pictures. Pins that describe the setting and/or characters are particularly helpful.
  4. Organize your pins by giving them descriptions. (Example: Elizabeth Bennet, age twenty. Middle class. Daughter to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, sister to Jane Bennet.)


My favourite playlist-creating program is Spotify. Of course, it's entirely up to preference whether you choose Spotify, YouTube, or another app. This tutorial will be for the first.

How to use this step:
  1. Create and title a playlist.
  2. Hunt down songs you feel describe your story's theme, characters, etc.
  3. Add them to the playlist.
  4. Listen to the playlist whenever you want to mull over (and/or write) your novel.


I'm a horrific artist. Blog design and my Photography class are about as good as I can get. Plus, I care about accuracy -- which means that whenever it's time for me to make a map, it usually involves a ruler (or three) and a compass (and maybe a protractor, too 😉 ).

How to use this step:
  1. It's simple (even if you're not a good artist, *coughs* like me). Just draw your map.
  2. If you haven't figured out the names of your locations, feel free to research. If it's a sci-fi novel set in outer space and you're busy naming planets, consider what today's planets are named after (Roman gods).
  3. Build a map key. It can include centimeters-to-miles, what each province contains, etc.


I prefer to view this (and steps five and six) as the hardest parts of outlining a novel.

About Act I:
  • It takes up approximately twenty-five-percent of the story
  • The protagonist is introduced while in the midst of his own little world, and quickly encounters the problems he needs to solve
  • The three main events include the opening scene, the inciting event, and the Act I problem

How to use this step:
  1. Write a brief summary in a style similar to the description for your Pinterest board (in step one). (Example: Three handsome strangers make their way into the five Bennet sisters' lives. Mr. Bingley, a wealthy member of the upper class, falls in love with Jane. Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth develop a hateful relationship. Elizabeth develops a crush on Mr. Wickham.)


About Act II:
  • It takes up approximately fifty-percent of the story
  • The protagonist abandons his current life and faces obstacles between him and his goal, causing him to repeatedly struggle
  • The three main events include the choice, midpoint reversal, and Act II disaster

How to use this step:
  1. Repeat part one of step four, this time for Act II. (Example: Mr. Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth, despite the disadvantages of her current situation. When he proposes, Elizabeth angrily rejects him. He responds with a letter disproving her accusations.)


About Act III:
  • It carries the story out and brings it to a close, taking up the story's last twenty-five percent
  • The protagonist puts a new plan into action, using the education he's acquired over the past two acts; he knows his goals and sets out to achieve them
  • The three main events include the plan, the climax, and the wrap-up

How to use this step:
  1. Repeat part one of step four, finally for Act III. (Example: Elizabeth begins to fall for Mr. Darcy, but Lydia's elopement with Mr. Wickham tears them apart. Mr. Darcy solves Mr. Wickham's debts and convinces him to marry Lydia. Mr. Bingley proposes to Jane and Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth.)


This is only necessary if your story involves any sort of quest. For Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, it might show Elizabeth's journey with her aunt and uncle through England and to Darbishire, as well as her journey with Maria and Mr. Luckas to Mr. Collins's parsonage near Rosings Park.

How to use this step:
  1. Photocopy the map.
  2. Using a pencil, draw the protagonist's journey from place to place.
  3. If there's more than one primary character, use a different-coloured pen to mark his own progression.
  4. Build a map key to identify the characters and their colours.


Track your chapters:
  1. Start and label an Excel sheet.
  2. Let the first column be dedicated to page numbers.
  3. Let the second column be dedicated to chapter numbers.
  4. Let the third column be dedicated to chapter titles (if applicable).
  5. Let the fourth column be dedicated to one-sentence summaries of each chapter's contents. (Example: Mrs. Bennet informs Mr. Bennet that Mr. Bingley has rented Netherfield, and requests for Mr. Bennet to send Mr. Bingley an introduction.)

Keep a calendar:
  1. Print a calendar for the time period your novel takes place during (or is inspired by).
  2. Keep track of events that occur. (Example: Tuesday, October fifteenth, 1811 -- Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth at the ball in Meryton.)


Dear pantser-Dragons, I do hope this has helped you outline! I'm happy to report that this method has helped me to develop a minimalist outline for And Did the Waters Tremble. 😁

What do you think? Do you have any tips or steps to add? The comments are open!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Mini-Hiatus Notice

Good morning, Dragons!

I overlooked a couple things while writing last week's post saying that I should have something new up, this week. Between test week (yelp!) and some family coming over for the weekend, I don't think I'll have a real post up until next Saturday. My apologies. Hopefully, once school's out, both the free time and brain power required to write an actual post will be present... somewhat. 😉

Have a blessed day! (And hopefully I'll see ya'll soon -- for real-sies, this time. 😁)


Saturday, May 13, 2017

No Post This Week

Hello, Dragons!

It's been a bit of a crazy week, so I'm taking a break from posting, today. Lord willing, a regular post should be up again next Saturday!

Have a happy weekend!


Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Wrap-Up

Good morning, Dragons! *waves* *yawns* I'm really tired... which may or may not be from staying up late during our congregation's gospel meeting (but yes, oh yes, it's been so worth it). (Lord willing, more on the meeting during the May Wrap-Up. 😉 )


  • I got a new laptop. My old one, Nameless (*coughs* Yeah, I never really thought to name him...), went kaput, so I got a new one named... *drumroll* D'artagnan! And I'm in love. A half-decent camera, a working disc drive, great speakers, and a six- to twelve-hour battery life... *sighs dreamily* ❤
  • Thirty-four days until summer! *straightens bowtie* 😏
  • Our congregation had a bonfire a couple weekends ago! I meant to grab my camera on the way out the door, but... I forgot. *shrugs*
  • My grade gets a week off from school, soon! *cheers* We're one of the only grade levels that doesn't have SBAC testing (thank God), so, even though there'll be a bit of homework, still -- no classes!
  • I memorized the Unit Circle... -_- Surprisingly, I aced that part of April's math test. Still not sure how I managed to do that.


*sings* Matildaaaa! In our school talent show, our theatre company performed When I Grow Up. I honestly remember nothing from being in the actual show. I remember the other acts and whatnot (and also getting yelled at for pacing prior to the show... our sound board director/assistant stage manager knows that pacing prior to a performance = Liv might die. 😛 ), but I remember little else.

*sniffles* And this is our director's last year at MEA before she leaves for college! *wails*

(On a less sad note, here's the song we performed, with the original cast of Matilda doing it... and in case you were wondering, the answer is yes, we did all sing with British accents. 😉 )


I can't not have collected more books this month, now could I? (Don't answer that.)

Books I collected:
  • The Hagenheim series (books one through five) by Melanie Dickerson
  • The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson
  • Maggie's Hope Chest by Amanda Tero
  • The Blades of Acktar series by Tricia Mingerink
  • How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson


So my goal of finishing all those books I mentioned last month didn't actually work... I finished two out of three of them, one of them being Laura Story's book, which I set aside for the time being, since I'm trying to get through a massive pile before Realm Makers, this summer.

Books read (not including academic reading):
  • Halayda by Sarah Delena White
  • Scarlet Moon by S.D. Grimm
  • Bellanok by Ralene Burke
Oh! Speaking of Halayda, I joined the Fellowship of Fantasy book club! And it's fantastic, ya'll -- I highly recommend it! It's amazing, and it covers indie Christian fantasy, and there are so many perks. Check it out on Facebook here!

  • Death Comes to Pembereley (2013). I've seen this miniseries before, but my, it's so good. It's like The Princess Bride -- each time you watch it, you learn more about the plot/storyline.
  • Ella Enchanted (2004). I haven't seen this since I read the book... and the movie's as bad as the Percy Jackson films. So many inaccuracies!!!!
  • The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). It's still my favourite HP movie. The characters, the magic, everything... Gaaah!


I listen to a lot of different types of music, so here are just a few highlights:
  • Brittany Jean
  • Megan Rae
  • Ministry of Magic
  • The Hamilton soundtrack
  • The Once Upon a Time: The Musical Episode soundtrack


So I might have developed a cookie-baking addiction... Hee hee hee. I made two batches, one of which was a no-bake (and a total fail), and the other which was an already-tested batch of deformed, sugary, peanut-buttery goodness.

I also found a new mac-and-cheese recipe! It's vegan and not terribly difficult; you can check out the recipe here.


Camp NaNoWriMo and that 10k I was aiming for did not happen. I'm hoping to play catch-up in May and June. I seriously overestimated the time needed to dedicate to finishing my outline.

I did finish the map for And Did the Waters Tremble's world, though!



The 2017 Goldstone Wood fan art contest is live! There are so many gorgeous pieces; voting for only three was definitely a challenge! (You can check out the submissions here.)

Here was my entry:

It's nowhere near the others in skill, but I've had the idea for several months, and it was fun to finally do. 🙂

  • Read three (or more 🙂 ) books.
  • Finish outline.
  • Write 5k.


How has your April been? What books did you read? Did you participate in Camp NaNoWriMo?


Monday, May 1, 2017

Regarding Common Core (From a High School Student & Math Tutor's Perspective)

(First off, my apologies for this post coming so late. The past week has been somewhat hectic...)

On the Thursday a couple weeks ago, I got a job. One I was positively thrilled for. I was going to be an Algebra tutor.

The pay was perfect. The hours were perfect. And, at the time, it seemed definite that this was established as "my" job, and it would last into the summer.

Spoiler alert: It didn't.

Monday afternoon, last week, -- my first day -- I sat down with my student at her family's dining room table. I was expecting something a bit challenging; the mother had warned me that the work was all Common Core. It turned out that the week's work revolved around SBAC testing -- yup, that hideous, ginormous, online-but-you're-not-allowed-to-use-scratch-paper state test.

I spent an hour at the girl's house, staring at some of the problems. The phrasing didn't make sense. What they wanted didn't make sense.

There was one question that asked for the distance between two points (though, of course, in so many more words). After I had blinked at the problem for about five minutes, I sighed and pulled out my blue pen and notebook.

"Have you ever heard of the distance formula?" I asked.

My student, a bright, young middle-schooler, shook her head.

I wrote it down. "You haven't seen this?"

Again, she shook her head.

Eyebrows furrowed, I returned to the problem and plugged in the various x-es, y-s, and so on. Finally, I reached an answer. This answer was on the list, and I was willing to wager that it was correct.

"Are you sure they haven't taught this to you?"

My student shook her head. "No, I've never seen it before."


After the hour had ended, I went home and finished my own homework. That evening, shortly before dinnertime, I received an email that stated my student required more help than they'd originally thought, and my services were no longer required.

My spirits plummeted. I'd lost my job on my first day.


I attend a campus for independent study. This means that I'm practically homeschooled: Every month, I do the assigned work and attend once-a-week classes, and every month, I take the tests and turn in my homework. The only downside is that the school district's decisions still affect me.

During my first year of high school, our principal began to host award ceremonies at the end of each semester. Over the past two years, I've received three awards over the course of two Algebra II/Geometry/Trigonometry classes. My current grade in Math is a high A.

Though it's taken several years for me to develop any form of affection for Math, it's now one of my favourite subjects. Thus, the job loss created an even more forceful blow.

When I found the email, I cried. I didn't understand. Sure, I understood that I couldn't provide the help my student needed to complete her practice SBAC packet, but... Was my apparent comprehension of math falsely assumed? Had my awards and grades been the result of some stroke of luck that has endured the past two years? Why couldn't I help her?


For the first two months of my freshman year, we used the Common Core textbooks, and we hated every moment of it. Thanks to my lovely ninth grade Math teacher, we soon made the switch to supplementary Common Core textbooks. (You know, the kind of textbooks in which they actually teach you how to do things. A crazy notion, I am well aware.)

Common Core is a nightmare. And so is the SBAC testing.

When I was in eighth grade, my parents pulled me out of my Pre-Algebra class and placed me on a more independent curriculum (a.k.a. not Common Core).

Still, in eighth grade, I took the SBAC test. Everything was online. By the end of the first thirty minutes, my eyes hurt from staring at the screen for so long. Upon the math-related portions of the test, we were not allowed to use scratch paper. Everything had to be done mentally. The best we received was a standard, online calculator to (sometimes) help us out.


Last Thursday, just a few days after my tutoring session, I plopped into my new favourite corner of my Math teacher's classroom and pulled out a pencil and a few sheets of paper.

My Math teacher walked over. "How did your first day at work go?"

I paused, eyes downcast. "I... was not able to help her with all her work, so I was... 'let go,' so to put it."

"Oh." The sympathy in my teacher's voice was thorough and much appreciated. "Might I ask which curriculum it was?"

I nodded. "Common Core. With a practice SBAC test."

He slowly bobbed his head in understanding and began to retreat to his desk. "If it makes you feel any better, I don't understand much of Common Core either. I shall be eternally grateful that your freshman-year Math teacher discovered these supplements."

"So will I."

So it wasn't just me. My Math teacher, a man who majored and has credentials in both Math and Social Studies, didn't fully comprehend it, either. And anyone who spoke with him or sat in on one of his classes would realize that he never had a moment's hesitation while teaching a class.


The purpose of Common Core was to unite the nation's districts, so we'd all be studying the same work and we could all be, roughly, on the same page. That part is good. But the fact that students and well-studied Math teachers alike are not comprehending this work makes Common Core a failure. How are we supposed to learn?

The average Common Core textbook provides few -- if any -- examples. Sometimes, they expect you to know a formula. Before I was pulled out of my eighth grade Pre-Algebra class, I spent a month with a Common Core textbook. It expected me, a mere child who possessed no love for math whatsoever at the time, to guess the formula for the sum of consecutive numbers. Don't know what the formula looks like? Neither did I. So, I googled it. It turns out that the formula's rather simple and easy to remember... if you're a high school sophomore who actually enjoys their Math class.

(n + 1)^2 = n^2 + 2n + 1


Common Core doesn't work. The SBAC testing is inconceivable. Together, the two are teaching students to become frustrated. To hate math. To fear themselves dense in areas in which they are expected to excel. I know. Because I've been that student.

Have you ever been much acquainted with Common Core? How did your relationship pan out?