Notes on Writing: How Not to Outline a Book

The latest chapter for the Year 2038 Bug is up on the website so time for another set of notes about my writing. This time I’m answering a question about how I plan my writing and the books I work.

The short answer is that I don’t plan or outline my book, I just let the words flow until they run out. However, I do have a climactic scene in mind as I write and a lot of what I do is find out how my characters ended up at that point.

The longer answer is that I start with a climax and then I define the characters and fill out their back story. I usually have a starting scene too, the first chapter about Deidre first popped into my head, picturing a young woman with little technical skills trying to cope in the modern world with everything turned off. As I developed that scene, the ending scene developed and other scenarios, such as Jake and Brian and how they might act when the bug is activated.

In the Year 2038 story I have an end scene in mind where the two groups, headed by Marie and Gabrielle, come to a point of a decision on whether the Year 2038 bug will be shut off or allowed to continue. The rest of the story is leading up to that point with scenes that pop in and fill in the holes on how they got to that point. As I fill in more of the details, I get more ideas of how things will go and I follow along. Sometimes the characters surprise me as I write about them but in the end, things continue moving towards the pivotal moment for the book.

The closest thing I have to an outline is a time line of events for the story. The time line includes real world events that I am guessing might happen based on current events I have been observing. I know I won’t be completely accurate, things are changing all of the time. However, the main premise for the book is what would people do if someone turned off the Internet and electricity and could something like this happen. The rest of the story involves the characters and how they are part of the situation. As a writer, I hope to create characters that readers can connect with and also show that ordinary people can do heroic things at the right time.

Since this is a first draft, things are rough and I realize the story may be hard to follow. I do appreciate getting feedback, when I edit the story I will be able to tie things together, fill in the holes, cut things that don’t fit the story and strive for technical accuracy. I appreciate your patience as I adventure into uncharted territory. I am just as curious to see what happens in this world I have created.

Here is a link to the latest chapter, Dallas, TX, October 2027