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Get Your Novel Out of Moth Balls and On the Map!

A friend of mine has been working on his novel for years but has yet to complete it. “I just get bogged down,” he told me recently. “I don’t know where the story is going.”

Does this sound familiar?

Many potential writers have partial manuscripts lying around.  I say potential because an unfinished manuscript is nothing more than a good idea—and unless you’re Nora Roberts or Tom Clancy, the only thing a good idea is good for is collecting dust. 

I guess you know your book will never sell from the bottom shelf of your nightstand, right?

I do not doubt that you have a worthy idea! We all have good ideas. The question is how to turn that brilliant concept for the next bestselling novel into a complete manuscript?

Some writers manage to get their novels down by writing as they go, a process called pantsing (referring to writing by the seat of their pants). But this doesn’t work for everyone. If it did, there would be no such thing as writers’ block and no partial manuscripts cluttering our hard drives.

The preferred method of a fellow-writer is often called plotting—planning a story in detail from beginning to end before the actual process of writing begins.

Personally, I use 3X5 cards or Trello (glorious!) to plan out ideas and flow.

But you might want to try Laurisa White Reyes "Road-mapping Technique" to move your novel along this year!

Laurisa says, "Know your destination."

"Every story is a journey with a specific destination. Writers can avoid common obstacles such as writers’ block and meandering storylines by knowing their destination and planning the route before they start writing. I call this planning process ROAD MAPPING.

Road Mapping

Road Mapping requires patience on the part of the writer. Like the traveler who wouldn’t just jump in his car and take off without knowing where he’s going, so the writer ought not to rush into writing before she’s good and ready. 

There are four simple steps to Road Mapping: Brainstorm, Outline, Synopsis & Summary – or BOSS.


When I get a good idea for a novel, I never rush over to the computer and start writing. I may jot down a sentence or two so that I will remember it later, but after that, I let the idea mull around in my brain for a while. I spend as much time as I need to develop the characters and plot details, often writing my thoughts on sticky notes. 

I like sticky notes because I can move them around at will, organizing all those seemingly random ideas into a linear storyline across my bedroom wall. This is the time to work out the entire story from beginning to end. Knowing how the story will end is vital. 

Only once I am certain of my destination will I move on to step number two.


I earned my degree in English eons ago, and I often joke that my diploma has done nothing for me but line the bottom of my hope chest. However, I did glean one very useful skill from all those years of study. I know how to write an outline. In high school and college, I had to write outlines for countless essays. (You probably did, too.) Later, as a newspaper and magazine columnist, I wrote outlines for the articles I published. 

An outline is perhaps the easiest way to visualize an entire novel from start to finish on a single piece of paper. Just as with any 5 paragraph essay, I break the story down into 5 sections: 

the hook (how my story begins), 

3 plot points (these are the three biggest moments of conflict in a story—much like you’d find in a movie screenplay), 

and the conclusion (how the story ends—the destination).


Once my outline is finished—what I refer to as a story’s skeleton—I am ready to flesh it out in my summary. This is where the actual writing process begins. 

I describe the characters and storyline using complete sentences and paragraphs and plenty of detail. It is almost like writing a short story version of my novel. 

This can take anywhere from three to twenty pages and can be used later when submitting to agents and publishers.


The final step is to break down the entire novel into individual chapters or scenes. 

Each chapter is assigned a number and a title that reflects what occurs in that chapter. The titles are for quick reference while writing and revising the manuscript and are eventually deleted from my completed manuscripts. 

I include a brief (no more than a paragraph) description of the setting, events, and conflict for each chapter.

Let the writing begin

Once these four steps are complete, I am ready to write my novel. I like to write one complete chapter each day, but I don’t always write them in order. 

By referring to the chapter summaries, I can choose any chapter I like and write that one. 

TIP- I save each chapter as a separate file using the chapter number and title as the file name. (ie. 01-Exile; 02-Found; etc.) Later, if I need to rearrange the chapter order, all I need to do is rename the files!

In Conclusion

Getting to the end of a story is not as daunting a task as it may seem. All it takes is a little pre-planning. 

Know your destination. 

Take the time to plan your route. 

NOW- pull out that incomplete manuscript, blow off the dust, and GET IT DONE."


Laurisa White Reyes says she is a recovering editorialist and magazine columnist. Her first middle-grades novel, The Rock of Ivanore (Tanglewood Press), was released in 2012. She resides in sunny Southern California with her husband, five children, four birds, three lizards, two fish and one hermit crab. A confessed book addict, she has a particular fondness for young adult paranormal and dystopian stories, though she's read and enjoyed something in nearly every genre. She has her son to thank for her current interest in zombie fiction.






The old enchanter rose from his cot, his joints creaking like rusty hinges.  His sleep had been troubled, and thoughts of the days ahead worried him.  Taking care not to wake his apprentice, Zyll went to the table in the center of the room, though his legs were so stiff that even traveling the width of his cottage required the use of a walking stick.  With his free hand, he took a copper bowl down from a shelf and set it on the table.  He grinned at the fresh bucket of water on the hearth, grateful that the boy had remembered to fill it this time.

      Zyll ladled water into the bowl and peered at his reflection in it.  How changed he looked, how unlike the man he used to be.  His hair, once thick and dark, had thinned and grown white, and the skin around his mouth had creased, but his eyes still glowed with the vibrancy of youth.  One thing, at least, had remained the same.

      He laid his walking stick across the table and then leaned closer to better view the image before him.  The water darkened and another face replaced Zyll’s reflection, a younger man not altogether human—a half-breed.

The image widened.  Crouching in a dark corridor, the half-breed crept from shadow to shadow.  Slipping past two sentries, he entered a small chapel.  He hurried to the altar and released a hidden latch that opened a small door near its base.  Zyll watched as the half-breed removed a scroll concealed within and hid it beneath his cloak.

      Just then, the chapel door flew open with a tremendous shudder.  There, framed in torchlight, stood a man with red hair accompanied by seven man-like beasts with hairy faces pocked with repulsive scars.

      The red-headed man charged angrily into the room, his sword slashing down in a wide, rapid arc.  The half-breed hastily drew his sword just in time to deflect the blow, and then countered with his own.  His blade tasted flesh, and the red-headed man collapsed to his knees, his hands grasping the side of his bloody face.

      The half-breed spied a small object on the floor and managed to snatch it up before the beasts attacked.  Though he fought them with inhuman strength, they soon drove him up against the wall.

      Cornered and outnumbered, the half-breed turned to the window and gazed down.  The image in the bowl shifted, and Zyll saw what the half-breed saw: angry ocean waves beating against the rocks far below.  Suddenly the waves rushed up toward him, and Zyll realized that the half-breed had leapt from the window.  Zyll watched him fall, and as he fell, the half-breed twisted his body to look up at the sky.  For one fleeting moment, before he plunged into the sea, his inhuman cat eyes met Zyll’s.

      The enchanter’s breath caught in his throat, and he stumbled back.  When he looked in the bowl again, the image had vanished.

      Zyll dropped into a chair resting his weary arms on the table.  He glanced at the fair-haired boy who slept on, then choked out a whisper.  “So it begins.”

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