Creative Series IV: Planning, Outlining and Editing…A Second Set of Eyes

Edited by Bill Guthrie

Creative Series IV: Planning, Outlining and Editing…A Second Set of Eyes

Welcome to the final leg of our journey as writers, authors, poets, scriptwriters, playwrights and authors.

It is time to begin planning what we are going to write.

notes-514998_1920My topics for this article will cover:

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • The art of writing

The last part of this article involves the mechanics of preparing for what you are going to write about.


The way we write, edit and publish what we write has changed dramatically.

keyboard-70506_1920Word processing software was available almost 40 years ago. Pencil and paper however, are still employed by many writers to begin the writing process. There are other writers who use typewriters, opting to either scan or retype what they have written into a digital media. Many new writers have embraced new forms of software and digital media to express themselves. Digital forms of writing include blogging, word processing or social media. Our world has changed and the media which we use to express ourselves have also metamorphosed into mobile forms of writing. Many writers now use mobile applications, designed for cell phones or tablets to post to blogs housed on the web.

There are technologies which are being evaluated and tested by many writers.


Technologies such as voice-recognition software, often standard with many mobile devices have come a very long way, although there are many users who insist that the hardware still needs a lot of work. The popular Microsoft Windows operating system software included voice recognition software as a complimentary package for years. The Apple operating system also comes with complimentary voice recognition software. The most recognizable voice recognition software (Dragon Naturally Speaking, by Nuance), continues to become more and more accurate. The software company has defeated several transcription barricades…increasing its accuracy in deciphering business terminology, problems understanding speech impediments, different types of accents, noisy environments and lisps have improved dramatically. There are more common forms of modern writing hardware that exist as well.

The Word Processor

Word processing software has been around for a long time.

I remember using Wordstar 1.0™, the predecessor of today’s word processing software.

Wordstar_ScreenshotWordstar™ software was included as part of a package deal with the Kaypro 2X™ (a computer I purchased in 1985…my decision for the brand, since my hero “Arthur C. Clarke“, had created his novel “2010“, from his home in Sri Lanka). Wordstar™ was a product that relied on a certain level of mastery, an understanding of memorizing key code insertions, which I was bound and determined to conquer within a short amount of time.

Thanks to that technology, I could develop, write and print short stories from isolated locations in the world.


My award-winning story “Shadow Trail”, was written while I was serving my country on a ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean. I wrote countless poems in South Korea, short stories in the Philippines and wooed a woman in Perth, New South Wales, with a short story that is still unpublished today. My Kaypro 2X™ computer survived power outages in South Korea, brownouts in the Philippines, even devastating power surges onboard my ship (prior to the availability of surge protection equipment), yet kept working effectively, like a Timex watch.

Word processing software has changed a lot since that time.


Microsoft Word™ is one of the most popular word processing software programs used in the world to date. For writers, the mastery of this software can be critical to success. Much of the editing process has been made simpler, but understanding how each ribbon in Word functions can make a writer’s job very easy. Word’s ability to save a document as a Portable Document Format (pdf) format (Adobe™ popular “universal” document), allowed an entire industry to adapt to changing needs long ago.

As a former trade professional, I feel that it is important for a writer to know how to use Word.


The View tab for example, can be used to “stitch” together word documents, created as chapters to form a complete book, or saved as a .pdf file. Knowing this technique, a writer could easily create a book in small, bite-sized pieces. If you think of your book as a lake, writing your book the old fashioned way would be akin to filling a lake with a garden hose. Word allows you to create small streams around the lake, providing a path for those streams to eventually fill the lake with each successive stream until it is filled. There are many websites and YouTube lessons that offer Word training free of charge. I will be offering Word training for writers, at a small monthly fee soon, from my website.

Many varieties of software allow writers to adapt to their digital needs.


WordPress, developed in 2003, is an easy-to-use open source content management system (CMS), that is deployed as a part of an internet hosting service or network host. Thanks to WordPress software, developed a few years ago for the computer desktop, writers can create web or weblog content, published direct from their computer to their website, for worldwide dissemination in mere seconds.

Open Source software is now available for writers who desire to create their own EPUBs.


Electronic Publishing (EPUB) formats are for the popular e-book formats, sold from retailers and distribution outlets worldwide. This format has gained popularity as a salable digital format for books, because it can be read on many popular digital devices. Sigil is an open source software, easily downloaded and installed on virtually any personal computer. This software is not easily mastered, but once the writer understands how it works, can create electronic books featuring audio, video or text combinations that can greatly enhance the value and desirability of the writer’s work.

Available as a free download, Microsoft’s OneNote™ is a tool that has helped me for decades.

OneNote™ is software that was developed for free form gathering and multi-user collaboration. It is one of Microsoft’s oldest and least used products. OneNote™ is an indispensable tool to collect, organize and plan anything. Book research can be done relatively quickly and easily. I cannot say enough about OneNote™.  If you are a writer and you don’t use OneNote™, I feel that you are cheating yourself of a very valuable and flexible commodity in your writing arsenal.

The Art of Writing

We have discussed tools at our disposal, now to planning and preparing to write.

Outlining what we are going to write has been a methodology which writers have adopted as an organizational technique for centuries. The outline has been modified over the years.

There are many variations of outlines:

These variations can help a writer not only collect one’s thoughts, but also organize how the story or content can best be presented. Many writers find that once they develop a specific outlining technique, that eventually, they can outline creatively in their minds, before they have even started developing their ideas.

idea-2123972_1920One excellent resource that I recommend was developed by Kate Turabian, who wrote “A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations“. One of the things that Kate talked about was a kind of mind map; a very flexible tool that can be adapted for plot and character development when writing stories. I recommend purchasing the book, it is a very effective tool.

Setting ideas to paper can be as daunting as when an artist begins dabbing colors onto blank canvas.

hourglass-1703330_1920When the writing process begins, it can be a challenge. There can be days when a writer cannot think of what they want to say, or how they want to present what is coming to mind…even if those ideas are soundly ensconced within an outline. A writing professional (a person who is paid to write) has no choice about “not writing”. Deadlines are the norm for a writing professional, something a novice writer should adopt as a mantra. If a writer is having problems coming up with something to write, many of the prior methods and techniques I have discussed in earlier creative writing articles can be used to “get one’s creative juices flowing”.

Taking you through the writing process.

light-2188464_1920For this final creative writing series, I will be taking you through the process of writing. I will be implementing fresh ideas every week for this final part of the creative writing series, taking each challenge step-by-step, challenging you…the reader…to create your own challenges, develop your own writing style and completing the writing process to start the process all over again.

As we work, I want to impress one important rule.

beautiful-2314_1920As you are writing, get a “second set of eyes” on what you are creating. I for example, am very fortunate. I have a mentor, who was a professional writer for over 40 years. What is a “professional writer”? Any writer who is paid to write is a professional writer. A paid, professional writer can be an author, poet, scriptwriter, playwright, journalist, songwriter, marketer, advertiser, technical writer or any person who engages in any form of writing. What sets the successful writers, who earn a living from their art form, from the writers who struggle with their writing is that “second set of eyes”.

Always, always have someone you can share your writing with.

Next in our creative series: Creative Series IV: Meeting Your Muse.

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