EVERY NOTE PLAYED: Chapter Outline

I outline my books AFTER I’ve completed the entire first draft. Is that weird? I begin writing most of my chapters with a question: What happens next? The answer is almost always some version of: I have no idea! Don’t freak out! Stay in the seat and find it!

I begin every book with a set of characters and a neurological crisis. And then I follow what happens to them. This process requires that I stay extremely present, that I open myself to all the sensory and emotional moment-to-moment details, that I inhabit the characters and their stories as they develop, unfold, and change. While writing without an outline can be terrifying, it’s also exciting and at times, it allows for genuine surprise. I ended chapter 23 by writing something that completely shocked me. I literally didn’t see what I wrote coming. I remember looking up from my laptop and saying to my boyfriend, “Oh my God! I can’t believe that just happened!”

So why bother with the outline when I’m already “done?” I outline my books after the first draft so I can see on one page what I’ve got. I can get a snapshot of the pacing, see what’s missing, imagine the graph of each character’s arc. After creating the outline for EVERY NOTE PLAYED, I added three chapters in Karina’s POV—chapters 5, 17, and 20—to give her character and story more depth and weight. The chapter outline by month reveals the pacing and how time seems to slow as this disease progresses. I love that the book begins with Richard and ends with Karina.

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