My Outlining Process Using Disney’s Frozen

outlining process

Apparently what I do when I start a novel–or plan to start one–is very different from many of my peers in the writing community. Many of them use beat sheets or are big picture outline/summarizer’s, or full blown pantsers. I go all out and I make myself pour the story out of my head and into an outline before I am comfortable with what I’m writing. Sometimes, I veer from my outline, but I quickly make sure it goes with my endgame and if it doesn’t it gets cut.

As a science person AND a teacher, I am a very analytical thinker. This makes me do two things naturally: “begin with the end in mind” and think in bullets. All teachers are taught to prepare their lessons by beginning with the end in mind. That means you pick your objectives that you want to teach and then you design your assessment. Then fill in all the teaching bits. I applied that approach to my writing.

I tried to figure out where the book I wanted to plot would end. Sometimes the outline would work out and my original end, would stay the end. Other times, I have to make adjustments. Outlining to me is fun and gets me excited about what I’m about to write. Being ever so slightly ADD (read: VERY ADD — it’s taken me all day to type this because I’ve lost focus eleventy billion times), I like to get everything squared away before I get too deep in my writing.


If you aren’t used to outlining, try small scale first. Pick a scene from your novel that you know you could sit down and write this instant if you had to. I tend to outline by chapter and then fill in the deets later. For my last novel, I pictured the chapters based on locations. I knew what I wanted to start with and I knew where I wanted to end. From there, I bulleted the different locations my character would go through the course of the novel.

To give you an idea of what this looks like for me, I’m going to demonstrate how I would outline the opening sequence for the Disney movie, Frozen.



First, identify the locations. Just so you know, the entire chapter doesn’t have to take place in that one location. You can also identify chapters by some event that happens, but for the last three outline’s I’ve written, I’ve used location as my jumping off point.

outline 1

Once I figured out the locations for the scenes, I went back and I added the main plot points.  You will have more main plot points than this (usually). I have many within a chapter (usually 3 or 4, but sometimes more). Please keep in mind, this is a very simplistic example on my thought process.


Now that I know what I want my character to do in each of the chapters, I can break apart each of those scenes. Sometimes as my outline grows, I find I have to split what I thought would be one chapter, into more two and sometimes even three.

outline 3

You can take it to another level and add more detail if you need to. It works for me, so maybe — if you want to give outlining a chance, you can try this method. It might work for you. Maybe give it some thought and get a good night’s sleep before trying it my way.



I work in this fashion until I reach the end. As I work, what I want each chapter to contain comes faster until I realize I’m finished. I’ve outlined three thrillers this way and from start to finish, the whole process only took a day.


Now all that’s left is to write it!



I have been a busy little bee.


In my mind, DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS has always been a series. As I write, I picture the events as if they were a movie or TV show (who knows, I’m a dreamer — maybe one day that will happen). I decided to sit down and write out what would happen next in the lives of Arissa and Erica. With the help of some amazing writing friends, I brainstormed one hell of a ride for them in book two.


The way I set this series up, I could go on and on torturing the lives of Innsbrooke High’s finest. With that being said, book two leaves off right where book one ended and answers many of the questions the reader is left to contemplate in book one. Especially considering the ending to book one. I’m not surprised, but my outline for book two is much longer than my outline for book one. I now understand why some books get larger as you add to the series (Harry Potter comes to mind). When all was said and done, I had outlined thirteen pages of action-packed OMGs and WTFs. The first four pages are the result of random brainstorming. What follows is my outline-of-awesomeness.

DLS BS outline

I’m not going to start writing this quite yet, but at least now, I know where I’m going.

Tagline: Some secrets take you to the grave.


Writing the synopsis is evil. If you’ve ever attempted to do it, you know what I mean.


The idea of taking 84K words and smooshing all the exciting parts of the story into one or two pages is enough to make some want to give up writing.


Before I could attempt such a feat, I had to get caffeinated.

tumblr_me1lq5AWBB1qkbtx4o1_500I worked at it for days.


It was tough, but I did it.


One step closer to querying!


Up until this point, the only novels I’d ever written were fantasy and paranormal romance. I decided this time, I wanted to try to write something a little more commercial. Sprinkle in a few random visits with my muse and DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was born. Started Feb 1 as a part of FebNo, I connected with my MC, sixteen-year-old Arissa Jayne and her life in the armpit of ‘Merica, Innsbrooke, Florida. (FYI: There is no Innsbrooke, FL, but my location for DLS is very loosely based on the area around Dixie County, FL).

As I wrote this YA LGBT Thriller, I discovered things about my characters, I’d never considered. For example, Arissa LOVES classic rock. Whenever I needed to get into her head, I just opened up Pandora’s classic rock station and within minutes, I was her.

Finally, the story drew to a close and I wrote the words THE END just so I could see them. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and I donned a large Cheshire grin. Whether this novel ever finds an agent, a publisher, or just runs through my friends and Beta readers, doesn’t matter. What matters is that I FINISHED IT.


That being said, I have my trusty team of CPs hard at work. The first half of the MS is already edited and ready to go. Now, the rest is waiting patiently for them to devour so I can send it to my Beta readers. In the meantime, I’m ending my self-inflicted hermit status and returning to civilization.


I am a plotter. I take an idea and I try to break it down into an outline. Each bullet represents something that happens in a chapter. If detail is needed, I elaborate. It makes it easier for me to stay on target and not run off into another world where secondary characters take over (that happened with this MS A LOT to the point where I had to rename a character and the cause behind their disability because he demanded he get his own book).

In February, I started this novel, so I started an outline.

DLS Outline

I hit 50K in the month of February. Took a break for the first few weeks of March and caught up on ABC Scandal. When I started back up, I didn’t write, but edited. I cut over 4K from the intro and in March added a total of 19K words, giving me a net of 15K. The homestretch came the first week of April and I finished the MS on April 6th in the wee early morning hours. My completed outline grew into the beast you see below. It is much more involved than my original and I added the yellow highlighting to signify whenever something insane happened due to my stalker, Secret. As you can see, there is A LOT OF YELLOW.

outline fini

I will admit, I did stray from the outline some, but overall, this worked for me. My first Thriller is in the bag and I couldn’t be more excited.

Question for all my readers: What’s your style? Are you a pantser or a plotter or some wicked hybrid?

Am I Finished Editing?


The novel is complete. You’ve walked away and started something else or started marathoning Doctor Who to give your mind a break. Is it ready for querying?

NO. I repeat: NO.

After it’s been through your Beta readers and CP team is it ready for querying?

Probably not, but maybe.

If you are like me, when you write, you slice open a vein and let the words flow. This tends to produce some passive phrases, adverb vomit, and some telling then showing paragraphs. You might catch some of it, when you edit, and your CP team might catch the rest. Heck, your grammar checker on Word or whatever program you use, might catch some. But is that enough?

NO. I repeat: NO.

Unless you are that good at editing. Most people aren’t. Not at first anyway.

There are two places you can go to that are free and will help you spot the number of adverbs, weak words, passive voice, etc. found in your writing. If you blog, consider using this. If you write, it’s a staple. I recommend using these sites before you pay for an editor. If you can eliminate this yourself, it means less money you spend on them.

The two sites I’m referring to are AutoCrit and EditMinion. Before I participated in PitchMAS and PITMAD, I’d never heard of either of these sites. Now, I use EditMinion because autocrit will only allow short passages before you are required to pay and receive limited feedback. It seems like a good investment for a CP team to split, but I’m not paying $77 alone.  With EditMinion, you can copy your entire novel or chapter by chapter and find out where your flaws are.

These sites are one of the many tools an author can use to figure out ways they can tighten their manuscript until they don’t have to rely on them anymore. As you edit and CP for others, finding the issues mentioned above become easier and you can transfer that to your own manuscript. It took me a while to reach a point where I didn’t feel like I needed to use either of these sites, but I’m glad I used them while I was still learning. Do yourself a favor – put your MS under the scrutiny of EditMinion (or Autocrit) before you query.

Meet Riker Irin

Riker Stats

PitMad Results


Pitmad flew by and wow, what another amazing day. I went in with my three original pitches and half-way through the day one came to me that captured Carri’s voice so well, I pitched it the rest of the evening. When all was said and done I walked away with 6 favorites. 

I’ve started the traditional query process as well, which has started off exceptionally well with my first query landing me a full request.

This is me:

Happy PitMad Day

Today is the day. It’s finally arrived. Time to submit my twitter pitches to the hash tag #PitMad and hope to catch the eye of an agent or editor. If they like it, they will star my submission and I will submit my manuscript. From 8AM EST to 8PM EST, authors can pitch their novel twice an hour. I still have three pitches, but I scheduled my tweets leading with the pitch from PitchMAS that got me the most attention.

Here’s what I’m pitching:

Banned from Heaven for who she is. Wanted by Hell for what she can do. An ancient plot makes her a danger to both.

Being chased by demons & hellhounds might sound terrifying, unless you’re Carri & dating an Angel. Then it must be Thursday.

Don’t blink. Don’t look away. Carri did & lived. Now Hell wants her to break them back into Heaven & Hell can be very persuasive.

Fingers crossed for some tweets getting favorited!

Kaylee Davis Twitter Contest Winner

For much of the summer and fall, I only used Twitter to discuss TV shows and other random things. I didn’t discuss my writing because it was a secret that I had started all over. I didn’t want to say much until I had completed the novel (which I completely rewrote) because I wanted to make sure I could finish it…and I did. I started researching twitter and blog contests and for unpublished authors and stumbled upon one by Dee Murray Literary agent Kaylee Davis.

I entered and expected nothing of it, my luck with contests goes like this: I don’t have any. Needless to say, I was pleasantly suprised when she contacted me on Christmas Eve to say I’d randomly won her contest.


I am beyond excited because since #pitchmas is now over, I’d been coming up with a list of agents I wanted to query after the new year. Ironically, she was one of them. I had the email waiting to hit send, already loaded with the requirements of her agency and now I get to hit send, but she will be critiquing either the query itself or the first 10 pages of my novel. Of course, it would make me ridiculously happy if she liked my material enough to request the manuscript and even happier if she saw enough potential in me to want to represent me, but I keep pulling myself back to reality where I’m satisfied that I will be given detailed feedback on my writing.

More details after I submit.


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