Editing Outlines Take II – Character Depth

Alright! So last time I talked about the notion of editing an Outline before you begin writing your book. This was a new concept that I learned via the James Patterson Master Class, which I highly recommend to any authors out there who haven’t given it a shot yet. Even if you don’t write suspense, the man’s got some serious skills that you can adapt to your own writing.

Such as editing an Outline before you begin writing.

It really is helpful, I swear. And no, my Muse hasn’t exhausted itself on this story-line because I’ve written this detailed Outline. I thought it would, but it hasn’t.

If anything, my Muse is more jived to be working than ever because editing the outline is allowing me to see the story from all corners, adding depth and tension and character development.

I’ve combined chapters or cut chapters that had no real use, which I know is going to save me editing time once the rough draft is complete. I’ve explored the peripheral characters enough that I know who they are and what they want and HOW they impact both the story.

Let me give an example.

In Tapped I had to edit and edit and edit the character of Kenzie Torda. She kept falling flat on the page because, beyond knowing that I needed her there to cause plotty problems and that she liked music, I hadn’t explored who she was. One of my wonderful Beta readers pointed her out to me (Thank you, LJ Cohen!) and I really struggled with her.

It made the editing process a bear.

In fact, I think I had to take a week just to figure her out, and then it took another week fixing everything to give her more depth.

In Dead Weight – the sequel to Tapped and the book I’m currently experimenting with Outlines on – I have a ship full of people.


Not extras.

Not minor characters there to drive my main characters insane, but real people with real motivations that make sense.

Like Doctor Morrison Conroy, a single father and brilliant physicist who finds himself confronted by a daughter he barely knows anymore. But rather than focus on his daughter, he points his rage toward the others in the book because that is somehow easier than accepting he might have failed her.

A lot of tension and strife comes from having this man on board, but more than that … he’s a solid personality and he makes sense. And the trouble he causes (or doesn’t cause) in the book makes sense too.

But I wouldn’t have discovered this about him until 5 edits later (and possibly a year or two into the work) if I hadn’t done this Outline process first.


I was a “pantser” once. And then I was a “start the book as a pantser, end the book as an Outliner” … but I think I’ve been won over by this method.

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