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Coffee & Chat, Writing

Coffee & Chat # 9 – Do you outline your plot?

Happy Monday! I’m hoping to get back to our regular Coffee & Chat visits. Between life and work it’s been a little cray-cray around here so I’ve needed to limit my time on the computer when I’m not writing. One of the questions I’m asked often is whether or not I outline. So today I thought I’d answer that question. I have a full cup of coffee so lets get chatting.

There are a few schools of thoughts on outlining. There’s a group that doesn’t outline. There’s a group that does outline. And there’s a group that does a combination of both processes, which means they loosely outline so they have an idea of where the story is going. Me? I outline. The outline for the Uninvited Corpse was about 20 (single-spaced) pages long and the outline for book two came in at 23 pages. I cannot imagine writing either book without outlining. Just typing that gave me the chills.

Why do I outline? Outlining gives me a clear direction of where the story is going and lays out the plot which includes twists and turns and defeats and triumphs for my amateur detective, Hope Early.

How do I outline? I begin with Michael Hague’s six stage plot structure. This method also serves as a template for writing the synopsis of the novel. Yes, even after selling your first book you need to be able to write a synopsis for your next book. Lets look at an example of how I incorporate this structure into my outlining.

Act One: First 25% of the novel

0-10% – The Ordinary World

This part of the book is her ordinary world, it’s Hope’s life before the murder and where I hope that readers will connect with her and want to follow her along the journey. I usually just write a few sentences with very few details.

Here’s what I wrote for the book I’m currently working on (the second in the Food Blogger Mystery series):

Hope Early is the publisher behind the growing food blog, Hope at Home. Her current project for her blog is a series on stress-free meals so she’s developing recipes for slow cookers and pressure cookers. She’s also continuing to remodel her antique farmhouse and the big project now is building a new garage on her property. The book opens with Hope arriving for the first day…I’m not giving any more away. 🙂

Now I’ll continue to go through the whole six stage plot structure and when it’s complete I’ll set it aside for a few days. When I return to the document I’ll add a few spaces to each section and elaborate on what is happening at that particular point of the story. Each section now will have several sentences which are a bit more detailed and the basis for the next step of outlining the novel.

When I begin outlining I include the chapter number, the scene number, the day in the story, the time of day, and the location. I also include all the details of that scene, snippets of dialogue if they come to me as I’m typing, descriptions of characters or locations or objects, and links to online research sites. My outline is jam packed with a lot of stuff. Here’s a snippet from the outline I’m currently using:

Day One – late afternoon

Hope arrives at home and is greeted by her sister, Claire Dixon. She didn’t expect Claire to be waiting for her or having to explain why she’s late getting home. Bigelow, her dog, comes racing to welcome her home. Claire is in a huff because…you’ll have to read the book to find out why she’s upset. 🙂

Writing the outline can take weeks and I honestly don’t remember how long it took to write the outline for book 2. I completed it last spring. Some writers feel writing an outline sucks the joy out of writing the novel. They’re not surprised by anything when they sit down to write the novel or they feel the outline structure is too rigid. Valid points. However, I don’t feel that writing an outline hinders the novel writing process. The outline isn’t carved in stone and can be adjusted accordingly as I write the story. During the draft writing process (I usually go through 4 drafts) I have changed things such as eliminating a scene – I did that in the first draft of book 2, the scene was flat and I was totally bored by it so I cut it and brainstormed a new scene to replace it – or adding a character or re-arranging scenes. Doing any of those things can be nerve-wracking for a writer but since I have a detailed outline that is guiding me, it’s like a safety net, I can make those changes on the fly.

If a new writer asked me if he/she should outline I would say “yes” and share my reasons why. But does a writer need to outline? No. Every writer writes differently and no one should impose his/her practices on another writer. But I think writers should outline. 🙂

Videos, Writing

That’s right, I went Live

In March I took the BIG leap of going Live on Facebook. Yes, it was a little scary. Okay. A lot scary. 🙂 But I survived. I’ve since learned how I can share Facebook Live videos here on my website so that’s what I’ve done. I know, I’m so techy. LOL. Only took a month.

In this video I talk about my second draft process. I hope you enjoy it.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.



Black Friday and the Writer

Happy Black Friday! What are your plans for the day? Shopping, shopping and some more shopping with a side of Thanksgiving day leftovers? I’m guessing a lot of Americans are spending today exactly that way. Me? I won’t be venturing out to the malls. I’m staying closer to home and to my laptop and the leftovers. This is because I have a word count goal for every day of this great four day weekend.

Welcome to a writer’s Black Friday.

First things first. Breakfast and coffee. Two cups of coffee to start my day along with a couple of scrambled eggs and toast while I watch the morning news. There was an interesting story on this morning about a recovered missing woman. Hmmm…Writers are always working. 🙂


Next up after getting myself ready for the day is grocery shopping. Exciting, right? But writers need to eat and their families need to eat. It’s also a great place to people watch. Writers do that all the time. Once I’m back home I’ll unpack the groceries and do some cleaning. I tell you, I’m living the dream. All kidding aside, I love to cook and bake so I’m happy to spend an hour at the store.  I think this weekend I’ll bake some pound cakes and make a pan of manicotti along with a big pot of beef stew.


A big chunk of my day will be spent at my laptop working on my current manuscript, which is book two is my mystery series. I’m finding writing a series a little challenging with my recurring characters. It’s taking me longer than I expected to get back into their heads. But the fun part has been the new scenes that have popped up that weren’t in my outline. There’s one scene with a hoarder that the guys on American Pickers would love, that was a blast to write. That’s the magical part of writing, when you’re surprised as the writer.

DVD,Organizer,SquashSoup 017

When my writing session is finished and I’ve reached my word count I’ll out head to a great spot in town for a walk with Susie. There is a trail along with other paths that wind around the old medical facility. Billy will stay home because I’m planning on a long walk for Susie (she can go for miles) and it’s too much for the little guy since his vision is so poor. He’ll go out for a walk around our street later.



At the end of the day we’ll dive into those leftovers, my favorite is the stuffing, and curl up to watch a holiday movie on the Hallmark channel. I hope you have a great Friday and if you’ve ventured out to shop please share your best score. If you decided to hang around the house instead, what did you do? Did you start your Christmas decorating? Or, did you indulge in a Christmas movie marathon?

Blogging, Writing

Out and About on the Web

Happy Monday! I’ve taken a little bit of time out of my editing to write a guest post for Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, the web home for crafty mystery sleuth, Anastasia Pollock. Mystery author, Lois Winston, is the creator of the Anastasia Pollock Crafting Mystery series and she’s been so kind as to let me take over the blog today. Please stop by and check out my post and all the other great posts on the blog.


Author Q & A – Ellie Ashe

Hello! Today I’m so excited to have mystery author Ellie Ashe here to answer a few questions about her writing process, her books, and what she does when she’s not at the keyboard. I hope you enjoy this Author Q&A.

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Hi and thanks for having me! I’m so happy to introduce my latest release, A Novel Death! It’s a new series for me, set in the fictional town of Danger Cove—a small coastal town that is no stranger to mystery and murder. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Danger Cove series and the amazing authors who have created such a fun series.

A Novel Death is the first in the Danger Cove Bookshop Mystery series. Here’s the blurb:

When Meri Sinclair inherited Dangerous Reads, she inherited a legacy. It’s Danger Cove’s only bookstore, and her grandmother had made sure that it was a warm and friendly places for readers of all ages.

To get off on the right foot, Meri invites celebrity author Cal Montague, a Danger Cove native who grew up to become a solid B-list actor, to debut his tell-all memoirs, Tales I Shouldn’t Tell. Turns out someone else thought Cal shouldn’t be telling tales, too. Before the event can even start, Meri finds the guest of honor in the alley—shot dead.

With motive and opportunity, the police have Meri in their sights. To save her business and her own skin, Meri, sets out to help the Danger Cove police find the real killer—before the murderer returns for a sequel.

Tell us about your main character.

Meri Sinclair grew up in Danger Cove, but has lived in Seattle for the last decade. But after an ugly break-up that was far too public, she’s retreated to her hometown. She’s just inherited her grandmother’s bookstore and is basically starting over. Being suspected of murder is not the homecoming she was expecting!

How many books have you written? What are you writing now?

I’ve written three novels and two short stories in the Miranda Vaughn Mysteries series. I have also written a fun, light romantic suspense novel, A Good Kind of Trouble, the first book in the Trouble in Twin Rivers series (which I will get back to…eventually). And now I have the new Danger Cove series.

Currently, I’m working on book 4 in the Miranda Vaughn series, and I expect that it will be out in early 2017.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I like to listen to either background noise, like the sound of coffee shops or rain, or movie soundtracks. For background sounds, I go to either or I’ve also been using, which has been interesting. It’s supposed to provide sounds that help you focus.

I’ve also recently discovered that video game soundtracks are good for writing. They’re designed to keep you focused and in flow while playing—a great state of mind for writing, too.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?I write in Scrivener, which is the best writing program that I’ve found. Recently, I’ve also started using dictation software, but it’s so new yet, I’m not sure if it’s going to help me or not. I like it, but it does require a ton of editing later.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

I know everyone says to finish your works in progress, and I both agree and disagree with that. I disagree because I have numerous half-finished manuscripts on my hard drives that I’ve abandoned. But I don’t regret moving on before they were done. In every case, I learned something important while writing them—and sometimes that lesson was that this story could not be saved.

But I also recommend that you do finish a manuscript because the first time you do, it’s absolutely the best feeling ever! And you will want to do it again. And again. Once you get a taste of that, you’re going to get addicted.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I love to cook and bake and try out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. Most are good! I love photography, reading (of course), knitting, sewing, and gardening.

What is your favorite motivational phrase.

“Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.” —Edward Abbey

Thanks for hosting me! It’s been fun!

A Novel Death

A Danger Cove Bookshop Mystery

By Ellie Ashe

Released July 12, 2016

Gemma Halliday Publishing

Author bio

USA Today best-selling author Ellie Ashe has always been drawn to jobs where she can tell stories—journalist, lawyer, and now writer. Writing fun romantic mysteries is how she gets the “happily ever after” that so often is lacking in her day job.

When not writing, you can find her with her nose in a good book, watching far too much TV, or trying out new recipes on unsuspecting friends and family. She lives in Northern California with her husband and three cats, all of whom worry when she starts browsing the puppy listings on


Visit Ellie at:

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Amazon author page:


A Novel Death can be purchased here