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Writing Books/Character/Story Development


I'm preparing to write my first book and have a basic question on technique. Is it too restrictive to work from a defined Character/Story matrix and Event tree?
My thought was that this would help me to stay on task.
Also, how does one choose an "appropriate" editor?
Thank You in advance.

Dear Robert:

I don't know what a "defined Character/Story matrix and Event tree" is, but I assume you mean something like an outline.

Whether you should outline/explore/fully understand your story before beginning or just jump right in with an idea and perhaps a character or two and find all that out as you go, depends largely on your own preferences. The great thing and the awful thing about writing fiction is that there are no hard-and-fast rules. A good outline should keep you on track, yes, but what if the track suddenly changes in Chapter 10 when you discover the real narrator of your story, or your main character (MC) dies? These things have been known to happen!

I think it's rather anal to outline down to the last sentence, but a list of possibilities wouldn't be far out of line. If you know your ending, by all means list out the steps by which your MC will arrive at that place. The big thundering events may be set in concrete before you start (and probably should be) but the rest is up for grabs. That's a good compromise.

You may expect absolutely anything to happen while writing fiction. If you let the words flow loosely and keep your conscious mind out of the way as much as possible, your subconscious should kick up some excellent material. If you are outlined down to the nits you may reject some wonderful stuff. Keep a relaxed and accepting mind. Lots of people write while listening to music: it moves the conscious mind aside and gives it something to play with while you're waiting for inspiration (from your subconscious). Try outlining a short piece before writing it, then try another subject without an outline. Which feels better to you?

As to finding an editor, it's a lot like locating a doctor when you've just moved to town: see if you can find a few to talk to. Ask them what they would look for in an editor. If you need more help with this, come back.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high standing over 200+ questions!

And good luck with your writing!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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