What planning tools do you use to keep your writing on track?

What tools do I use to keep my writing on track? For me, it’s an outline.

My outline doesn’t resemble a table of contents and doesn’t have numbers and indents and other things associated with outlines, rather it’s more like a detailed synopsis. One paragraph per chapter and that paragraph is just long enough to include everything about that chapter that’s important. So in a novel of twenty chapters, I end up with twenty short paragraphs. A couple of pages at the most.

That ‘outline’ does two things for me:

  1. It keeps me heading in the direction I’ve decided the story should go. If I decide to include extra stuff while writing, it’s easy to look through the outlines to see if the ‘extra’ works with the book as a whole. That saves a lot of rewriting, which I seldom do because I’ve learned to write right the first time in order to eliminate rewriting. It took a long time to reach that point but I’m glad I did. (Issac Asimov did the same, having cut his writing teeth on pulp fiction that paid so little that he said if he’d had to rewrite, he’d never have made enough to pay the bills. Then he got famous and his life changed but he still never rewrote.)
  2. It keeps the word count right because I make sure each chapter includes approximately the same number of words, which I long ago figured based on how I write. For me, a chapter just normally has somewhere between 1500 and 2000 words and that happens whether I’m consciously watching the word count or not. It’s just how I write so I might as well use that fact about me to keep my word count correct, which I’ve always needed, since I’ve almost always written commercial fiction with specific word counts.

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