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Jodie's Blogs

Outlining a Book


First, let me apologize for the length of this blog. I love outlining a new book. L-O-V-E it. I'm a planner, not a pantser. What does that mean? It means I plan everything out before I begin to writing a book instead of just flying by the seat of my pants. To be honest, I outlined most of "The Gangster's Mistake" but I got hung up a little and part of it I had to be a pantser. I'd say the book turned out pretty good.


In my new book folder under outlining, I have 4 different methods of outlining that I like to choose from, depending on what I'm writing. The first one, a very simple outline and the fourth one, is very detailed. I'll expand on it more below. I tend to over-outline. Once I get going on writing, I don't like to stop because I have hiccups in my outline flow.


Method 1: Simple Scene List

This is just as it implies. Simple scenes. Write down all the scenes I can think of, then put them in order of how they should go in the story. That's it.  


Method 2: The 9-Step Plot

This is just the basic outline to get you to where you're going. Easy peasy.

  • Ordinary World: the main character in normal life
  • Inciting Incident: Something changes that normal life
  • First Plot Point: Things are getting more intense, everything changes and there isn't any going back
  • First Pinch Point: First major interaction with the antagonist
  • Midpoint: a shift from victim to warrior
  • Second Pinch Point: Second confrontation with the antagonist
  • Second Plot Point: Battle lost, hope is almost given up
  • Final Battle: The main character gets renewed vigor, then victory!


Same as the last one, you just need more details than just the basic six. You can still incorporate Method 1 into Method 3 with all your scenes.


Method 3: Save the Cat!

If you're a writer, you've likely heard this term. If not, you're in for a treat. The Save The Cat outline method is a popular outlining method for planners. It's 3 acts and 15 beats, with the second act being the bulk of the beats.


Act I

  • Opening Imagine (0-1%): the main character in normal life
  • Set-up (1-10%): Exploring more of the main character's normal life, including internal flaws, external challenges and supporting characters
  • Catalyst (10%): Otherwise known as the inciting incident and life as they know it changes forever
  • Debate (11-20%): The main character is balking at the change, seriously reconsidering moving forward

Act II

  • Break Into 2 (20%): The choice is made to take the plunge into new life
  • The Promise of the Premise/Fun and Games (21-50%): The main character gets used to the new world, whether loving it or hating it, doing well or not, and possibly introducing a new 'helping' character
  • Midpoint (50%): Either everything is good, or everything is bad at this point
  • Bad Guys Close In (51-75%): Things start going wrong for the main character and it gets bumpy
  • All is Lost (75%): Your main character hits rock bottom, their absolute lowest point
  • Dark Night of the Soul (76-80%): Time for your main character to wallow in hopelessness


  • Break Into 3 (80%): The main character realizing what he/she needs to do in order to break through this problem
  • Finale (81-99%): The main character does what he/she decided in Break Into 3 and succeeds or doesn't
  • Final Image (99-100%): This is the opposite of your opening, the main character in the new life


The more in depth outlining, the more you have to sit and think things through, but then you don't have to do it when you're actually writing. And maybe you don't have to, if you're a pantser!


Method 4: 3 Act / 9 Block / 27 Chapter Outline

This is the mack-daddy of all outlining. If you love outlining, this is the one for you. Now, keep in mind that you do not have to stick to 27 chapters. It can be more, it can be less. But you will have 3 acts and 9 blocks. I use this, combined with Method 1. I also have very specific things I incorporate in my outlines, such as information such as date, time, chapter/scene,  scene props, scene purpose, characters in the scene. I go ALL out. And if you ever want to see any of my materials, just let me know. I'll share.


Act I: Set Up

  • Chapter 1 – Introductions: Introduce the main character in the ordinary world
  • Chapter 2 – Inciting Incident: A problem disrupts the main character's life
  • Chapter 3 – Fall Out: The main character deals with the inciting incident
  • Chapter 4 – Reaction/Rebel: The main character's long-term reaction
  • Chapter 5 – Action: The main character makes a decision, impacting the rest of the story
  • Chapter 6 – Consequences: The result of the Action
  • Chapter 7 – Pressure: The main character starts to feel the pressure
  • Chapter 8 – Plot Twist: Things get complicated and the main character wonders if the right decision was made
  • Chapter 9 – The main character is pushed in a new direction

Act II (Conflict)

  • Chapter 10 – New World: The main character experiences a new world or situation
  • Chapter 11 – Fun and Games: The main character explores the new world
  • Chapter 12 – Old Juxtaposition: Comparison of the new world to old
  • Chapter 13 – Build Up: The main character struggles, which motivates him/her
  • Chapter 14 – Midpoint: The main character encounters a complication
  • Chapter 15 – Reversal: Everything changes.
  • Chapter 16 – Consequences: The main character reflects on what has happened
  • Chapter 17 – Trials: The main character takes matters into his/her own hands (see Reversal)
  • Chapter 18 – Dedication: The main character is determined to overcome

Act III (Resolution)

  • Chapter 19 – Calm Before Storm: A solution is found, but the main character has to overcome doubt
  • Chapter 20 – Plot Twist: Worst that before. Everything is possibly ruined
  • Chapter 21 – Darkest Moment: Everything seems list
  • Chapter 22 – Power Within: The main characters finds the courage and strength to carry on
  • Chapter 23 – Action/Rally: Taking action, the main character overcomes the plot twist and continues
  • Chapter 24 – Converge: Everything comes together, the big event is imminent
  • Chapter 25 – Battle: The main character fights the villain or tackles the issue
  • Chapter 26 – Climax: The main character triumphs or succumbs to a fatal flaw
  • Chapter 27 – Resolution/The End: All loose ends are tied up and the main character has changed


I'm sure there are numerous other outlining techniques out there, and I'm sure I have some saved in folders, but these are the ones I've tried to use and have had some success at. I've got these from researching and finding what others do for outlining and made my own modifications. Feel free to use any of these methods, all these methods, or none at all! Happy writing!

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Keeping Track of Books Read


Keeping Track of Books I've Read: How do I do it?   


That's a good question. One that I've only recently, sometime in the last year, given thought to. After having started reading a book that seemed familiar, I discovered I'd read the book before. Time to keep track.


Favorite Authors

The easiest way to keep track is by my favorite authors. Some of my favorite authors, I've read every book, so if a new book comes out, I know. Simple. I have all the books by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She was probably the greatest historical romance writer ever. And unfortunately, she's no longer with us, so the books I have are all that there will ever be. It's those authors in between that are harder to keep track of.



Another way is series. Like favorite authors, yes, but also series. I have every book in the Outlander series, but I know I have the last one to read. I try to get into a series that are already established so I don't have to wait for the next book to be released, but I screwed that up when I bought "The Fourth Wing" and "Iron Flame" by Rebecca Yarros on a whim. When I bought these, I didn't realize that the next book isn't even written yet. Now I have to wait until next YEAR! Ouch!


My Tracking System

I can't do anything about the books that I've read that I don't remember, but I can do something with what I have on my bookshelf now that I know I've read and haven't read. I use Microsoft Word to keep track. Lame, I know. Some people have a real love-hate relationship with Microsoft Word. There are probably much better ways or programs out there to track. Goodreads is a good way, too, but it would take me a long time to get every single book in there. For now, Word is going to have to do. I like the clean and crisp way I can organize it, and I know enough about it to know how to manipulate it. Microsoft Excel would probably be better, but I shudder at having anything other than NUMBERS tracked in Excel. I use Excel for my sales and inventory for MY books, not other authors. If you're asking wondering to yourself if I put my own books in my library of books I've read, I laugh . . . no. I only track other authors in my library of books.


The good thing about my little Microsoft Word system is that if I get rid of any, I have it noted that I read it. Another good thing is, if I ever have anything catastrophic happen (fire, tornado, who knows what else) I have a record of all the books I had because I keep a backup on a USB drive. Not that insurance would pay much for used books, but when I say I have a lot of books, I'm not joking around. I have six bookcases plus books in my desk hutch and on my dresser in my bedroom. I'm sure my husband loves having books everywhere. His fault for marrying an avid reader, then convincing her to become an author. 😊

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My Writing Space

This is one of my writing spaces, or working spaces. I spend Monday through Friday here working my day job as a Proposal Writer, but my mornings, evenings and weekends may have some time here as well doing business like recording sales, taxes, mailing out shipments, inventory, etc. My main writing space is on the couch in the living room with my laptop specific for writing, with the TV on and my earbuds in. I need the background to concentrate. Working in this office after having just spent 6:30 a.m. to 4:00-ish p.m. is just not workable for me. I need to get out of the room.


But I wanted to share this room with you because this room contains special things with my writing. These are not in order of importance by any means.


#1: My Planner

I've written about my planner in other blogs. I'm not sure I would survive without it. From appointments, to shows, to taxes, I need it to keep everything in order. Especially this time of year when my day job gets super busy, I just released a book and summer shows and family events are ramping up. It's not my only schedule visual either. I have one in my purse (probably one reason it's too heavy) and one on the wall in the kitchen. The one in the kitchen is so others in the house know what's going on, and the one in my purse is so I know what is going on when I'm on the go. To say I'm organized is an understatement. I'm well organized. Not sure I could do this without being well organized.


#2: My Computer

Like I said, I have a laptop specific for writing; however, all of my books are on flash drives and backed up on this computer and another flash drive. I spend a lot of my time on this computer and on my laptop. I need the two screens for my day job. It's a perk to use it for writing, though, especially editing.


#3: My Rubber Duckie

My dear neighbor, Brenda, who lives across the street, left this for me in my mailbox before my first book, The Gangster's Daughter, was published. She's been on my desk ever since as a reminder that I can do this. She said she got 'ducked' and told the person she was giving it to me. Truth be told, when she messaged me, I thought it auto-corrected and I was a little flabbergasted until she explained it further. Then I saw it in the mailbox and it made a lot more sense. Ahhh . . . the story I can tell with it now. I won't ever get rid of it, Brenda.


#4: My Author Jodie Leigh Murray Pen Set

I mentioned this gift in a social media post long ago when this arrived in the mail with no sign of who sent it. I found out later than my co-workers ordered this for me, and a card was supposed to have come with it. To put this into perspective, this pen set is an extremely high-quality set that has Author Jodie Leigh Murray engraved on the top and into the two ball-point pens. Not just any pens, mind you. Excellent quality pens. Those who know me, know how particular I am with writing materials and these are fantastic pens. The quote engraved in the box, if you can't tell by the crappy picture I took, is from my favorites . . . "Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it." ~ Albus Dumbledore. That quote could not be more true.


#5: Current Works

If you don't know it already, I'm working on my fourth book, The Aristocrat's Wife, about the wife of a high-society New York aristocrat that finds herself in hot water after being accused of adultery. To escape the criticism of the society that doesn't believe the truth and a husband that cringes when she's around, she dresses as a boy and goes in search of her long-lost brother across a nation rebuilding after the Civil War.


#6: Bookmarks

I keep a stash of my bookmarks within reach for orders received. Sometimes I just like to look and admire the fact that I now have three books published. It's an accomplishment I am most proud of. And I owe it all to those who have supported me through this journey, by reading those books, following my social media, reading my blogs, catching me at shows, and several other ways.


#7: 15 Year Service Award

This doesn't have to do with my novel writing career, but has to do with my day job, which is also writing but on the technical side. This is my 15-year Service Award plaque, issued to me in October 2022. Yep–October 2024 will be 17 years and in another 3 (2027) will be 20 years. If I'm going to be honest, I would love to make it to 20 years but I'd much rather my writing career take off and I can say I'm sitting at this desk from 6:30 a.m. to 4:00-ish p.m. working on writing books and anything book related rather than working for someone else. I'm actively working toward it, and I'm not about to stop.


Happy reading!

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Sneak Peek: The Gangster's Mistake

I know release date is only two days away, but I'm offering a sneak peek at the first couple pages . . .


Chapter One

As I looked at the two-story De Luca family home, I thought of all the people here today who could easily find their wallets missing. I couldn't help it. Being a thief for so long, thoughts like these defined me, etched in my memory like a part of my DNA. Thievery was bound to me for life. These guests would go a long time before they noticed anything was missing, all of them sidetracked by the festivities happening on this joyous day.


I've been a thief since I was eight years old. Stealing at such a young age was a way of survival. My mother cared more about her next fix than she cared about me. If she couldn't get her hands on drugs, alcohol was the next best thing. There was never enough money for food, clothing, necessities, and definitely not toys or books. Stealing was a way to make sure I got fed and the lights usually stayed on, not that I decided where the money was spent. Not once.


The past was something I preferred to keep well hidden, butwhen my limousine pulled up through the eight-foot tall black iron gates of Regan De Luca's family's estate just north of LosAngeles, I couldn't help but to think of how out of place I felt. My life was very different now, at twenty-four, than it was when I was eight. I wasn't poor, but I wasn't wealthy. A highly skilled thief, such as myself, could easily target this house, ifit weren't for the security guards.


Shit, I thought, looking around the perimeter of the frontlawn. No one's going to get past this security. Not today. The driveway was long, under thick shady trees where cars lined the perfectly manicured lawn, attesting to the importance o fthe day. There were at least ten guards at the gates, and several trying not to be noticed. But I noticed. I learned at a young age to watch for the men who stood in the shadows, the way they held their hands loose and ready, and the way their heads tracked your movement even if you couldn't see their eyes under dark glasses.


Growing up in one of the poorest parts of Las Vegas, I couldn't remember ever being invited to a house of this size. I'd never owned a house, and given my history and my current job, I wouldn't. And I was fine with that.


But even an invitation to this house, on this day, was something to be coveted. Besides, robbing houses wasn't my thing. Stealing from people was. When I was younger, I could have targeted houses, but I was good at slipping through crowds.


Because of my petite stature, it was easy. Why change what I was good at? That, and I could never go stealing on my own.


My life changed the second I met Cameron Moretti.


Cameron was the sole reason for me being here. He was my oldest friend—oldest being five years older than me. I had known him for just over ten years, which also made his friendship the longest lasting.


Now, he was getting married. I couldn't wrap my head around it. Eight months ago, he wasn't considering settling down. When he told me his father arranged a marriage with the daughter of an old friend, I almost peed myself laughing. Cameron hadn't been ecstatic about it, either. Until he met Regan.

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If I Had A Million Dollars

If I had a million dollars . . . what comes to mind is the song by the Barenaked Ladies. Laugh out loud, for sure. But in all seriousness, if I had a million dollars, there are several things I would do.



The first thing I would do is pay off our debt. It's nowhere close to a million dollars, which is nice. The house, the truck . . . there really isn't a lot to speak of. But having those paid off would allow us a lot more leeway. Years ago, my husband and I took the Dave Ramsey classes and boy, that made a big difference in our financial situation. We're working on it, but we have a long way to go. Having a million dollars would put us on Step 7, Build wealth and give. Wow, would that be the most fantastic thing to happen? But I'm a dreamer so I'll keep dreaming. And keep working my butt off.



This is something that I do through my 401k, but I've never been able to do any of it outside of that. After all our debt gets paid off, I'd invest some. Not all, some. Now, with that being said, it's easy to go on a spending spree and that's all fine if you budget for it first (thank you, Dave Ramsey classes). I'm more frugal than my husband, although when I get deliveries from Amazon, UPS, FedEx, he thinks differently. It is true, though. We have goals, and we both actively work toward them, but I think I'm more inclined to think about the repercussions of spending than he is in certain situation. That is not a bad thing and I am totally not bashing on my husband. There are two types of people in a marriage (usually), the nerd and the free-spirit. I'm the nerd. Duh. But we work together toward our goals. Having a million dollars would just help us get to our goal faster!



Taking a vacation would be great. Somewhere we've never been, even better. Of course, we have our travel trailer but it's been pretty stationary for the last year because of well . . . this. Working. Writing. Hoping to get more in this year, but we'll see. I would love to fly to somewhere such as the Caribbean or England, somewhere we've never been that we both want to go. If I had a million dollars, we could do that.


Buy Land and Move

And last, but certainly not the least of my list, would be to buy land. My husband would love to pick up and move to Belize. Reality is, we'd buy land (the goal is Wisconsin) and build a house. We like Buffalo and we like our neighbors, but we don't want any. Houses are popping up everywhere out here and you can tell by the additional traffic. It's getting too much like city living now. Time to leave! We have two more years before the youngest is out of high school, so the million dollars would just help us attain the goal of moving faster.


What would you do if you had a million dollars?

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