How I Write, YA fiction

How I Write: Outlines

JV How I Write

Today’s writing topic is all about outlines and how they work for me. I’m not going to stand here (sit here, really–still haven’t put together my new standing desk) and tell you that every writer must use an outline. For me, it helps. I stress out if I don’t know where the story’s going, and it freezes me up. The issue of “not feeling inspired or surprised” with an outline doesn’t affect me, because I’m constantly being surprised by what my characters do, and I often have to change up the outline a little bit (or a lot a bit) as I go.

What does my outline look like? It starts off as scrawled bullet points in a notebook, and I usually think each bullet point is a chapter, but most of the time I smoosh them together so that several bullet points, or actions, go into each chapter.

Once I’m done with that, I type them up and print them out. Then I can refer to the print-out easily while I’m drafting. This is a pretty messy process, usually, with additional notes scribbled in. And if I get stuck, I sometimes doodle in the margins.

JV outline pieces

This happened a lot in the typed outline for the Haunted Halls: Winter’s Cavern trilogy, and you can see an example above. 🙂

As far as how I structure my books, it depends on the book. Is it a standalone, like the YA fantasy I’ll be publishing later this year? Or is it a series of books that need to tie together, like the two Haunted Halls trilogies? Each individual book, regardless of how long it is or whether it’s a part of a series, follows the three-act structure and from there, I follow Blake Snyder’s format that he shared in his book Save the Cat. It’s a pretty straightforward way of outlining a book, and I’ve written several novels with his format as a guideline.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful or at least mildly interesting to someone! Questions? Stick ’em in the comments!

How I Write, YA fiction

How I Write: Tracking Word Count


One thing that keeps me going while writing is keeping track of my word count! Having a production goal–whether it’s for words, scenes, chapters, or pages–keeps me more accountable to myself.

Because let’s face it–we can tell everyone in the world that we’re writing a book, but nobody can actually make us sit down and do it.

For me, having a daily goal and a place to record it can help immensely. If I can make it into a chart and make it colorful, even better! I love seeing the chart change with new colors after every time I check in.

While charting scenes worked for me this time, I also like tracking word counts even by doing something as simple as writing down the number of words each day in my calendar. It’s not as pretty, but still effective.


And…I just searched through my entire bedroom and every other notebook-hiding area (book cases in the basement, little buffet table in the dining room, poetry shelf, closets) looking for that notebook pictured above so that I can show you the completed chart, but it’s nowhere. It might be in my daughter’s room because it contains the handwritten portion of Hollow Wishes and she likes to read it…and if it’s in my daughter’s bedroom, we might never see that notebook again. If I ever find it, I’ll take a new picture of the chart and update this post. 🙂

If you’re a writer, do you track your progress? What’s your method?