I’ve been running the outline for Leads & Lynxes through its paces today. What does this mean? For starters, I make sure it has all the acts, all the beats, and all the stages of a hero’s journey. Which it does.

Then I tried something I’ve done only once before, on Deadlines & Dryads: I made a simplified outline.

By simplified, I mean as streamlined as possible. One sentence per stage, no names, no specifics. This let me see the core of the story. To give you an example, here is the simplified outline for Deadlines:

(NOTE: If you have not read Deadlines & Dryads, skip the numbered list to avoid spoilers.)

  1. Woman in new job needs to prove herself.
  2. Woman takes risks to get recognition.
  3. Spiteful coworker tries to undercut woman.
  4. Woman partners with a reluctant but more combat-experienced man.
  5. Woman and man join forces to counter a larger threat.
  6. Woman and man face dangers together, and it draws them closer.
  7. Woman and man face largest danger and death, and woman saves the day.
  8. Spiteful coworker steals woman’s work and passes it of as own.
  9. Woman follows instincts, and outperforms spiteful coworker, proving herself to her boss.

That’s about as generic as I can make the story, and I did the same for Leads.

Then I created a second outline, flushing out each sentence in my simplified outline. You would think that retelling myself the outline of my story yet again wouldn’t do much, but I found myself defining and refining the underlying character motivations driving each plot point.

Finally, since there is romantic tension between Kylie and Grant (how I love the tension in their relationship!), I did the same simplified and flushed-out outlines speaking just to the emotional arc of their relationship. That proved a wellspring of character motivation, and I added all kinds of notes to the main outline.

Now, after days of writing and fine-tuning the outline, it’s finally done. I can start writing.

Wait. Let me say that with the proper enthusiasm: