How to Outline Your Novel

Outlining a novel is different from outlining any other document. If you try to completely outline a novel from the opening scene to the closing scene, you will most likely discover that you constantly change your mind during the process of writing.

Changing your mind during the writing process is great! New ideas for plot points, character development, and twists are constantly opening up the further along you get into your story, which is exactly why a traditional outline is not ideal.

A traditional outline looks like this:

I. Chapter One

A. scene one

1. details
2. details
3. details

B. scene two

1. details
2. details
3. details

C. scene three

1. details
2. details
3. details

II. Chapter Two

A. scene four

1. details
2. details
3. details

B. scene five

1. details
2. details
3. details

C. scene six

1. details
2. details
3. details


Writing a novel does not have to be so structured like the outline above. Instead of spending a lot of time writing a clear-cut outline, try outlining your book like this:

I. Plot – a few sentences about the overall plot of the entire book.

A. Major scene to drive plot forward
B. Major scene to drive plot forward
C. Major scene to drive plot forward


II. Characters – who are the main characters?

A. Character one development.
B. Character two development.
C. How do the characters interact?


III. Turning points – what are the key moments?

A. The conflict in the story
B. The climax of the story
C. The final resolution of the story


Creating a short outline that contains just the main elements will allow you to let the story flow and change as you progress forward in writing it. As you write one scene, you will find there are several directions you could take to drive the plot forward. Allow your creativity to flow and see where your story takes you!

If you’re feeling creative…

By Jordan Thames


If you’re feeling creative…embrace it. It sounds easy, I know, but it can be difficult if you’re anything like me.

I hold tightly, too tightly, onto the reins of control. As a writer, I love a good play on words, but when it comes time for me to put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard, I suppose?) I over critique and nothing seems to quite…fit. I remember vividly many instances of ripping pages out of notebooks, scratching through the seemingly stale words I have written, frustrated. Nothing ever seemed right, nothing was good enough. Nothing was perfect.

What I wouldn’t give to have those words back.

Embrace the messiness of creativity, because some of the most brilliant stories appear during the toughest times. Today, your words seem stagnant and unoriginal, but tomorrow you may see a glimmer in them that wasn’t there before. Remember that your story matters, and that the words you have on that page will mean something to someone, somewhere in the world.

The mind can be a tricky little fiend, and reading your own work in the early stages of the process can be tough. Self-editing, at this point, is your worst enemy. You may feel defeated, tired, uninspired, but that’s okay. Take the time to do something that brings you joy. Read your favorite book, rediscover your inspiration. Remember why you write.

Never throw your work away, even if it feels hopeless.

At Indigo River, we are all about words worth reading. And, trust me, your words are worth reading.

Writing for Genre

By: Jordan Ardoin


If you want to be a writer, you probably have an idea of the kind of stories you want to tell. While you are creating those stories, you should let them flow freely from your imagination without trying to force them neatly into a category. However, when the time comes to submit your manuscript and publish your book, it becomes important that your story fits into a genre.

The genres of writing are numerous and diverse. Some of the most common are commercial, literary, sci-fi/fantasy, non-fiction, romance, thriller, and young adult. You should have some awareness of which of these your book falls under, if not when you start writing, at least by the time you start editing. Knowing your genre enables you to write something that follows the rules of that genre (to an extent), which is something publishers will look for in your manuscript. So, how do you write for a specific genre? Research! Once you know your genre, learn as much as you can about it.

One simple yet imperative parameter of genre that you should research is word count. Publishers expect manuscripts of certain genres to be a certain length. For instance, most young adult novels are expected to fall somewhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words, but a sci-fi/fantasy novel can be as long as 150,000 words without falling outside the genre norm. Usually, you can find several articles about the expected word count of your genre with a Google search.

Another important step in writing for genre is following genre conventions. A genre convention is a plot or structure element that nearly every work in the genre has in common. Publishers and readers alike look for these conventions. For example, readers of romance novels expect the lead couple to live happily ever after. Happy endings are a convention of the romance genre. Of course, breaking conventions is sometimes accepted and even encouraged, but they should be broken with a compelling purpose, not out of ignorance.

While searching the internet for information about your genre can be helpful, the most effective way to learn how to write for a genre is to read books from that genre. Read books by a variety of authors, with a variety of subject matter, from a variety of eras. Reading widely within your genre will give you a familiarity with the material you could never gain from reading articles. Once you are experienced and comfortable with stories from your genre, reproducing its conventions in your own work becomes second nature.

Grammar Pet Peeves, Part 2

By Jordan Ardoin


This small series of blog posts is to help you get your book published. By going back and proofreading your work before submitting it, you are able to turn in a nice, polished copy of your manuscript. It helps the publishers and, if your book is accepted, the editors deal with a few less things during the editing process.

So, let’s get started.

The Oxford Comma.


The Oxford comma is my favorite thing in the entire English language! And, in most writing styles, it is correct to use it. From experience, not using the Oxford comma can make your point muddled and
confuse your readers. One of the most common examples is a direct quote from The Times: “…highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year- old demigod and a dildo collector.”

If you weren’t able to tell, this sentence makes it seem like Nelson Mandela is an 800-year- old demigod as well as a dildo collector. Probably, not the idea you were going for. Adding the Oxford comma showsseparation between the people:

Correct: “…highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod, and a dildo collector.”

Here’s another example to further my point of how amazing the Oxford comma is.

Example: I like cooking my family and my pets.

Without the commas, this sentence is saying that the speaker likes cooking their family and their pets.
Let’s not be cannibalistic psychos and use some commas, shall we?

Correct: I like cooking, my family, and my pets.

With the commas, the speaker is listing what their likes are, not planning what they are having for dinner. Make sense?

So, please, just use the Oxford comma and give us all a piece of mind.

If I was vs. If I were


You’ve heard of Justin Bieber’s song “Boyfriend,” right? You have if you’ve listened to pop radio over the past couple years. Did you know that, grammatically, his song is wrong? He sings, “If I was your
boyfriend…” which is incorrect. Grammatically, the correct way to say it, “If I were your boyfriend…”

Now, Beyoncé has a similar song, “If I Were a Boy.” Yet, this song is actually correct. How so?

It all boils down to some of the nitty-gritty parts of grammar: subjunctive mood. What is subjunctive mood? Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, subjunctive is defined as relating to or denoting a mood of verbs expressing what is imagined or wished or possible. Both Beyoncé and Bieber are wishing or imagining something. Therefore, were needed to be used.

Now, if Bieber was speaking in past tense and explaining that he was once this girl’s boyfriend, then his statement of “If I was your boyfriend…” would be correct. Since he is not implying that, then his song is incorrect.

One Space After Punctuation


When typing, some people were taught to leave two spaces after a sentence because of the how typewriters use to be set up. The font they used required two spaces so the words of the end of the previous sentence would not run into the words at the beginning of the next.

With typewriters being outdated and not as commonly used, the two-space rule has been changed. Current fonts that are being used on laptops and tablets do not require two spaces, only one. Double spacing after sentences now, makes the text look odd and slightly off.

While the double space isn’t necessarily wrong, it is most likely to be changed to one space during the editing process. Removing the space yourself will help the editing process go a little smoother and give your editor one less thing to worry about.

How to Work Through Writer’s Block

The dreaded writer’s block. The bane of every writer’s existence. Once it hits, it seems like an inescapable mind prison, void of any creative genius…blank.


Don’t panic! I know right now it may feel like you will never have another great idea, or that you’ll never be able to write again, but that is far from true. There are many ways to push through writer’s block, and as this can be a difficult situation to navigate on your own, I thought I would share some of my favorite tips with you.

Read a book you love.

Remember that one book that fostered your love for the written word? The one that offers a continuous source of inspiration? Go back and read it! When in the midst of a creative slump, it can be easy to forget your why. Why you love to write. Why a good story is so important. Reading your favorite book, or even a chapter from it might give you that little spark you need to push through.


Let your mind go crazy! Well…not too crazy. This is your chance to get out any and all thoughts that may be stifling your creativity. Writing through the block is sometimes where the most original stories come from. It’s okay if this feels unfamiliar, because not every great tale comes from a comfortable place. Don’t think too hard, just write.

Take a brain break.

Clear your mind, go for a walk, listen to music, play video games, chat with friends. Whatever brings you joy, and allows your mind to take some time off. Sometimes, the best tactic is just to take a step back from the material, and allow your mind to wander a bit.

Change your setting.

It is not always productive to write where you are comfortable. While some of your best stories may have been written at your favorite desk or on your living room couch (where I frequently doze off while attempting to get work done), that may not be where genius hits you next. Try hitting up that cute coffee shop on the corner that you’ve always wanted to visit, or a local library. A change of scenery might just be the inspiration that you need.

In a twisted sense of irony, I was struggling with writer’s block while attempting to write a blog on how to work through writer’s block. But I persevered! That is what matters in the end. Don’t let your writer’s block get the best of you. Sometimes the best stories come from the most difficult places. Just remember to always keep writing.

Do you have any tried and true methods for beating writer’s block?

Share them with us in the comments!

How to Write in One Simple, Easy Step

By Jordan Ardoin


So you want to write a book and publish a book. Or an essay. Or a poem. Or an instructional guide on raising emus. Whatever kind of writer you are (or want to be), at some point you’ve probably asked the One, the penultimate Question: how do I do this? Answering that question may seem daunting, even impossible, at first. How do you start the process of turning an idea in your head into an actual, physical piece of work?

The answer is so simple it’s almost hard to believe. How do you start? By starting, of course.

“Oh, no,” you’re probably thinking at this point. “I thought I’d finally found the secret to writing, but this isn’t real advice at all. What a waste of time. I’m never reading another blog post again.” But stay with me! This is good advice, I promise.

So many new writers (old ones, too) spend all their time stressing about what and how to write and never get around to actually writing. And there’s the problem. The only way to write is to write. As Shia LaBeouf would say, just do it! Whatever you’ve got in your head, put it on the page. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be good. Author Harlan Coben already said it: “Write. Just write. You can always fix bad pages. You can’t fix no pages.” (See, I’m not just making this up!)

I know, I know, “writing” isn’t exactly a simple, easy step. I lied to get you to read this; I’ll admit it. Writing is intimidating and frustrating and slow. It’s also very easy to put off. I know this because I’m probably the world’s best procrastinator.

Trust me when I say that I know how difficult it is to get started, and I know how difficult it is to stick with something you’ve been working on for a long time. But if you want to be a writer, you have to learn some time. And the only way to learn a craft is to practice it. So, let’s get writing.

Grammar Pet Peeves, Part 1

I’m writing this little series with you in mind.

Throughout my short time being an English major and a slightly longer time falling in love with major, I have come across many things that I have found problematic and have decided to share with you.

We all have been guilty of these, but some of us can learn from our mistakes. Others, well, either they don’t know it’s a problem or they choose to ignore it. I am here to help with that!

Today, we are going to discuss the differences of: and me vs. and I, among vs. between, and loose vs. lose.

And me vs. and I


You would be surprised at how many people believe that “and I” is always correct. Would you believe me if I told you that’s not the case?

Shocked, right? I was at first, too. When a statement ends with “and me,” it does not automatically write the statement off as invalid or false because of your belief of what proper grammar is.

How can you tell if it’s used correctly or not? Let me help you figure it out.
Always cross out the “and” part. For instance: Jess and I are going to the store. Take out “Jess and” and read what is left of the sentence.

I [am] going to the store. (Always check your verbs because it is going to be awkward!)

The sentence, “I am going to the store” makes sense, therefore, “Jess and I are going to the store” is correct.

Let’s try that again. Chat with Evie and I tomorrow! Again, let’s take out “Evie and.” Does “Chat with I tomorrow!” make sense?

Nope. It’s going to be me instead. Chat with Evie and me tomorrow!

Anytime you’re curious or it feels clunky on the tongue, try this tip and see if it helps. Sometimes, even if it sounds wrong, it’ll be right. I automatically omit the “and” and what comes before it every time I read it to see if it’s right.

Between vs. Among


Using these words can be confusing at times. There are times where they both sound right or one sounds better than the other. Maybe it helps the character or the flow is just better, but I’m here to tell you something. If you go with your gut, there is a high possibility that you’re wrong.

Between is used when mentioning two objects or people. For instance: This conversation is just between Sally and me.

Now, to add onto that, let’s say that there’s me, Sally, and Trey. It would make sense if the sentence was now, “This conversation is between us,” right?

Actually, no. Why? Well, as stated right before, there are now three people in the conversation. The correct word to use would then be among. So, the right way would then be: This conversation is among us.

Between is used in reference to two things. Among is then used for anything three or more.

Loose vs. Lose


Most of the time, people get these wrong because of typos. You meant lose, but you accidentally added an extra “o.” And, because nothing is perfect, your computer might have not caught it. Or maybe it did and made it loose instead of lose and you didn’t catch it. Yet, there are other times when people really do not understand the difference.

To help with this one, I’m going to spit out some definitions. (Note: since there are multiple definitions to these words, I am going with the first one offered.)

Loose (adjective): free or released from fastening or attachment.

Example: I must’ve lost weight! This shirt is loose!

Lose (verb): to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery.

Example: Did you lose your wallet?

What Makes a Good Story, Post 2

What Makes a Good Story or Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

A Blog Series by Faith Green


Post #2: Avoid Cliché (read last post)


Okay, okay, I know. If you’ve ever taken an English class in your life, then this post seems cliché. Isn’t it ironic? Oops, I did it again. I crack myself up. I could go on, but the only person I’d be entertaining is myself.


At the end of this article, I’ll start a list of clichés that I hope you’ll add to, but for now, I’ll move on to the question of how to avoid cliché. Of course, the first strategy for avoiding cliché is avoiding cliché, but I’ll save you the déjà vu.


Confront the cliché.


Shakespeare displays one of the prime strategies for avoiding cliché, hyperbolic cliché in this case, with “Sonnet 130:”


My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on head. (1-4)


The poetic voice continues this seemingly insulting rant for quite a few lines before adding, “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare/As any she belied with false compare” (13-14).


So, what’s his strategy for avoiding cliché? Confronting clichés by pointing out their absurdity and falseness. He’s not insulting his mistress by saying her eyes don’t look like the sun, her lips aren’t coral red, her breasts aren’t snow white, and her hair is like wire. He’s saying that people are ridiculous for making such comparisons in the first place. Now that’s not cliché, though it might be dangerous. Do not let your mistress see this, Mr. Poetic Voice.


Put a new spin on an old idea.


Cliché applies to storylines just as much as it applies to phrases. Here’s an example: a teen is getting into trouble. The teen is taught a lesson by a person or circumstance. The teen stops getting into trouble and grows up to be a functional adult. The end. It’s the classic coming-of-age-story. In Murran, though, F. F. Fiore un-clichés this ancient structure. Here’s what happens after his main character becomes involved with a gang:


When he’s framed for a crime and facing prison, Trey flees to a Maasai village in Kenya with his English teacher and mentor, Mr. Jackson. Though initially repulsed by the Maasai customs, Trey slowly comes to value their traditions and morals. As he goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, becoming one of their own, he learns that Black African culture is truly about. Only after confronting lions, disapproving Maasai elders, and his own fears does Trey begin to understand that men are made and not born. (Back cover)


Wait? A modern teenager does what? I have definitely never heard this story before, and that’s because Fiore has put a new spin on an old idea.


Do you have more suggestions for strategies to avoid cliché? Share them in the comments where you can add to my list of clichés, too.


Also, if you’d like to check out Fiore’s book, click here.


Here are some clichés just subtle enough that they might fool you:


Humble beginnings

Last minute or at the last minute

Raven-black, snow-white, caramel-brown

Husky, short and stout, curvy, full-figured

Rail-thin, like a bird

My eyes are up here

Dense fog

Drastic circumstances

Only you have the power/the chosen one

Share them/it/your thoughts in the comments

Keep an eye out for our next blog 😉

What Makes a Good Story

What Makes a Good Story (Lessons I Learned the Hard Way)

A Blog Series by Faith Green


Post #1: Write Without Evasion


“Are you going to write about me?” my boyfriend of one year asks, looking down at me with his brown-green eyes.


“Uh….” My own eyes linger appreciatively on his Romanesque nose before I divert my attention to a piece of lint on his shirt. I pick it off. “Sure….”


It’s not a lie. I will write about him, but it won’t be like he thinks. Also, I will never, ever show him, or if I do, I’ll never let him know the piece is about him. It’s not that he wouldn’t make a good character. He’d make a great character, but that’s the problem. Characters require imperfections, and he’s got them. I don’t want the world to know that, though.


Scratch that. This article is about honesty.


I do want the world to know, but I don’t want him to know that I let the world know.


Because you’re going to let the world know, half of my conscience whispers.


Yup, I answer silently.


You’re a bad person, the other half of my conscience says.


I prefer the term “non-evasive author,” I respond.


The inclination to avoid certain aspects of an event or character is often a major obstacle for authors. Memoirs provide some great examples of this obstacle. Pretend you are writing about your childhood experiences. You have a father. Your father worked hard, which you respected, but he drank daily and deeply, which disturbed you. Both of these characteristics impacted you immensely, but you don’t want to hurt your father or your family. Do you leave him out of the piece? No. Do you exclude his drinking? No. You must be prepared to face, digest, and discuss the impact your father’s work ethic and his drinking had on you if you want to write a memoir about your childhood. Otherwise, the writing will be cliché, your characters 1-dimensional, and your memoir unsubstantial.


Here are some ways you might avoid literary evasion:


Write in the appropriate genre. The memoirist, for example, might approach his or her childhood through the lense of poetry or fiction. The flexibility of such genres could magnify the possibilities of the author’s exploration.


List your characters’ imperfections. You might do this during character-developing exercise before and during the process of writing. Be aware of these characteristics while you write and include them in your characters’ actions and dialogue. If you are the main character, do the same for yourself. Also, don’t forget that every narrator is a character.


Write confessionals. Be honest. No one, no one, no one is perfect. One way you might get in touch with your character’s “darker side” is by writing confessional. Unlike the imperfections list, this list is written “by” your character and should include confessions of their darkest deeds. Try to write at least a page’s worth for each character.


Here’s a sample piece I so did not write about anybody in particular:


“The Night Before You Left”


I Brought you Blue Moon and slipped into bed, waiting


You drank the beer

and watched T.V.,

spent half the night petting our dog

and telling her you’d miss her.


I finished my wine and fell asleep

instead of deciding whether to cry or speak.


To be fair, this poem is more about miscommunication than anything else…

Do you have any suggestions about how to write non-evasively?


Do you have a sample non-evasive piece?


Share them with us in your comments!

Character Building

By Justynn Newman


You have created a wonderful, detailed, and dynamic setting for your book to get place. Now you are on the right track. You conquered procrastination and you have your setting, and maybe even some of your plot.


The next step is to populate your story with characters as dynamic and awesome as your setting. Making a complex, interesting character can be difficult. Almost as difficult as it can be to meet such a person in real life. However, you are a writer, and it is your duty to make such characters. You may feel lost and you may struggle with creating someone with a full range of feelings and views. It is much easier to just throw in a character with a cardboard cutout personality, but nobody wants to read about them. Below I go over a few techniques that I find helpful for creating well-rounded characters.


How to Create Well-Rounded Characters in Your Story



The first thing to do is think about what your character’s role in this story is. Are they the protagonist, antagonist, antihero, hero, loser, etc? Once you know their role you can begin to flesh them out. What do they look like? How do they present themselves? Are they funny, mean, intelligent, dramatic, or something else? A robot from the 7th dimension would act and talk quite differently from Steve the Days Inn manager. That’s a bit of an extreme example, but keep in mind what your character is like at their core. Also, avoid focusing on just one trait. Come up with a few personality traits for your character. Incorporating multiple traits will help your character come to life!



Now that you have their basic personality down, you can start asking the most important question: why? Why is my character like this? Why do they behave this way? These questions are excellent tools in determining how your character became the person they are now. Take this time to write up a backstory. Who are/were their parents? What was their childhood like? Find out what shaped them and really try and think as this character would. Many times, it’s hard to separate your own opinions from your character’s thoughts and beliefs. With a well-developed story for each character it becomes easier to avoid having all your character’s voices muddle together with themselves. Keep your characters separate. Developing them before the story begins makes them more solidified as an individual’s: they become entities separate from yourself.  If you make your characters distinct, then they will come across as distinct to your reader.



Next, think about what motivates your character. Everyone wants to accomplish something and your character probably does too. Getting down to a character’s base motivations and goals will help you seamlessly incorporate them into your story. Think about your plot and your setting. Ask yourself, how can this character move, hinder, or add to the overall plot progression here?


If the answer to the question above is that they cannot contribute to the story, then scrap them. The people in your story are there because they are significant. If a character does not add anything substantive to the story, or worse takes away from it, then they need to go. It can be hard to let go of characters, but it is something all authors must do. Who knows, you may always be able to incorporate that character or idea into a future piece.


That is my tidbit of advice, feel free to share your though processes and techniques for building characters below!