I have had some conversations with people about how they write and how I write. I have also had some folks ask me how I keep everything straight and keep “on track” as I write. I use an outline (that’s not like the outlines we used to write research papers back in the day)
The outline approach has definitely helped keep me on track. I actually just start a word doc that has the outline done as a series of paragraphs that look like the following:
<character goes to place. character encounters whatever. Something happens. Resolution>
<character goes to another place. character encounters another thing. Something else happens. Resolution>
Those become “waypoints” in my story and I add or remove them as I feel appropriate. The story itself is written in the same word document so that the current “end” of the story is right before the next waypoint and I always know where I am trying to go next. When I have written the part that covers the waypoint, I delete the waypoint.
Book Three has an outline that is a couple of pages. Book Four has a slightly longer outline and an almost complete prologue (the prologue for book three is outlined, but not written). Book Five has an outline roughly the length of Book Four and an even more complete prologue (the prologue for Book Five tells the origin of the vergrinn – I had this in place before Book One was complete)
To give you an example of what I am talking about, here is the text from my current work in progress (Book Two) where the story I have written meets the remaining outline (I have taken some detail out of the waypoint, but left enough for you to see what I mean – this also means you get a tantalizing peek into Chapter 18 of Book Two, but once again I have taken out enough to prevent you finding any of the real surprises):
“Of course you can borrow the money,” said Amundr. He had never had anywhere near that much money and he didn’t have the slightest idea what he would do with it himself.
“Thanks, Amundr. I’m going to head back in to bed.” Aoalbert left Amundr on the steps, alone with his thoughts.
<end of story so far>
<they go to the next village they are to check out, a fishing village on the west coast. They investigate the strange reports that have come from there>
So that’s how I write. I make a list of high level events and throw in a little detail, then I keep that next event in focus as I move through the story. As I come up with other events to add, I do so. Occasionally I read through the remaining outline and see if there is anything I need to add, remove, or modify based on things I have done or hints I have dropped as I wrote.