The Writer’s Cricket: Outlines

And always let your outline be your guide! Yes, that’s where I was going with the title.


Hey, that sounds about right for writing too. Anyhow! I want to talk about outlines. If you’re a pantser and you’re not interested, well, maybe give it a read anyway? I’ve already talked about this to a lesser extent, so this will be short. Today I want us to build an outline together. It pays to be organized. You’ll find that you write faster and will reach your word count sooner. I know this from experience. If your novel is one that jumps between periods of time, or has flashbacks or flash forwards, this will come in handy. So, the basic template. First, I title and date my outline. The reason I date it is so that I know what my most recent outline is. As I make changes to my outline I make a new copy each time. I like to keep a hold of my old outline in case I decide I don’t like the new change or I want to implement something I took out in a new way or to a new place. That being said, title and date your outline!

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)

As an example of saving this outline, I would use the name EBT_out_04252016.doc. This immediately tells me which book it is, that it’s an outline, and the date it was created so I can identify my latest one. Now, I don’t change the date on it if I’m making small changes such as to spelling or punctuation. Next, lets decide the structure of your novel. Are you going to use parts? Chapters? Dates like a journal? For this example, I’m going to do the outline of a journal format novel using parts.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)


May 26th, 1977

Next, we need to decide the important elements in each scene. And also, be sure to allow for plenty of space between scenes. I use all capital letters for each part marker so I can identify the breaks easily. It may create a longer document, but the extra spaces make it easier to read and the different scenes distinct. So, back to the things important to keep track of in each scene. Well, it’s a journal so who it’s to and from are important. As well as where and when, the weather, and any holidays.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)


May 26th, 1977
From: Anna
To: Bethany
Where: New York, New York
When: late night, after Anna’s big fight with Todd
Weather: Raining

Alright! We’ve established our scene. Of course add and subtract to your heart’s desire, but following the who, what, when, where, why rule can guide you. Next, we’ll build the actual scene. We determined our setting, now let’s determine what happens within. I’ve determined for my example that Todd is Anna’s husband and she’s writing to her best friend from childhood Bethany.

Example Book Title Outline (04-25-2016)


May 26th, 1977
From: Anna
To: Bethany
Where: New York, New York
When: late night, after Anna’s big fight with Todd
Weather: Raining
I. Anna locks herself up in the master bedroom after an exhausting fight with her husband, Todd. He yells at her to open up from the other side, banging on the door. Overwhelmed by the insistent screaming, she opens their closet and shuts herself inside.
II. It’s cool. It’s dark. Todd’s screams are muffled by the insulation of the walls and thick racks of clothes. Without light, Anna stumbles and knocks over a box. Concerned only with clearing her head, she slides down and hugs her knees. Her mind clears. She is able to focus.
III. Time passes. Todd’s yelling has ceased. Anna remains in the closet and stands to stretch the stiffness from her joints. She fumbles for the light string and yanks on it. The light pierces her dilated pupils. She shields her face with her hand. Her eyes drop down to the box and its spilled contents at her feet.
IV. Letters contained in envelopes of varying shapes and sizes are scattered. She knows the curvature of the handwriting by heart. She kneels and collects the opened letters. Her finger runs across the return address. She hasn’t written to her childhood friend Bethany for many years and decides it’s as good a time as any to start.
V. Anna pulls out her old stationary stuffed in the box with the letters and begins to write. “Dear Bethany…”

And there you have it. A strong scene. I have found if I haven’t written a scene yet, I get very detailed. It’s a miniature scene in itself. I’m sure you can tell I got into it a little bit and focused on details, but I do that in my regular outlines as well.  Don’t fret over the length. Determine what you want to happen in the scene. Write it from start to finish. Later on you can determine if the start should be later or the end sooner. I hope this has been helpful in building an outline.

Be sure to check out my World Building Series for more. (I’m sorry, I hate plugs, but all the people who know what they’re doing insist I do.) And as a side note, I’ve included a coupon code at Smashwords to download my novel, Dragon Bloode: Covet, for free when it releases. It’s good until July 17th (one month after release). Coupon Code: ZT57S And tell your friends! And stuff. And things. Until next time!


World Building Part 7: Culture


Hey guys and welcome back to world building! Last week was hectic and crazy so I had to skip, but I’m hopefully back on track! We’re at the end of the series, not to say I won’t post other world building related material. Originally divided into nine parts I condensed a couple and so we end at lucky number seven. Thanks for sticking with me through this series over the last couple of months and I hope it’s helped bring some clarity and depth to your new world. Let’s get started!

We’ve actually already covered several aspects of culture, but today’s blog is intended to go into more depth. As usual! Culture isn’t just the aesthetics of a community, but also the way in which they interpret and handle it.

  • Marriage
  • Rites of Passage
  • Celebrations
  • Birthdays
  • Birth
  • Death
  • Taboos
  • Attire
  • Music/Art
  • Entertainment
  • Literature
  • Celebrities
  • Education
  • Beauty
  • Language/Dialects
  • Medicine
  • Fighting


There are many aspects to marriage other than the ceremony. Yes, the ceremony is important! And no doubt you can combine your culture with your religion to create it. In addition to the ceremony, you need to consider the laws of marriage. Is divorce allowed? Can it only be between elves/humans/orcs/pancakes? Is there interracial marriage? Is polygamy/bigamy allowed? Is it acceptable for an adult to marry a child? Once again I’ll point out our own real world has a slew of cultural expectations for marriage. In addition to all of these questions here are a few more to consider. Are there dowries? Are all marriages arranged? Is it scandalous for a noble to marry below his class? Is a father out to rescue his daughter from being a child bride?

Rites of Passage

In modern culture we still participate in rites of passage even if they’re not what comes to mind when thinking of the term. Graduations and birthdays are a couple of examples. At what age are girls considered women and boys considered men? Is it age specific? Or do they have to complete some kind of task first? A first kill? Having a child? And what of those who don’t pass those specific rituals? Are they pariahs or denied specific opportunities?


How do the people of your world celebrate? What do they do for holidays and marriage feasts and the birth of a new princess? Do they feast or fast? Play games or get on their knees in prayer? Of course the celebration in particular can affect how it’s celebrated. For the birth of an heir a religious nation might pray in thanks. For winning a battle they might do the same, or dance over the proverbial graves of their enemy.


Some cultures in our own world don’t celebrate birthdays whilst mine in particular puts a lot of weight into its acknowledgement. Of course there are also milestone birthdays to consider. Even if your kingdom doesn’t celebrate every birthday, they may put a lot of stake into the 10th, 20th, etc.


In Tudor England, women were put away for months at a time in the later stages of pregnancy. It was believed to aid them in delivery and to make both mother and child healthy. What rituals does your culture follow when one grows close to birth? Are there placebo potions made of ground up pancakes? Is a holy man expected to be at delivery? Are no men allowed or vice versa? There could be only males allowed to not mix up the estrogen or something like that (I know that’s not a possible thing, but ancient peoples believed some interesting stuff). XD


This would be heavily influenced by your culture’s religious beliefs. Is it the end all be all? Or do they move on to an afterlife? What kind of afterlife? Is there a funeral celebrating their life? Or rituals to aid in their travel to the next world? What are they buried with or in? Are they buried at all? Are there graveyards or is everyone burned? It’s always possible that death isn’t acknowledged at all and family/friends simply don’t talk about that person anymore.


What’s taboo in your culture? Is it normal for families to keep marriages within themselves? Is it acceptable for  women to wear pants? Is anyone without a tattoo of your religious figure considered an outcast? If taboos are met then what is the result? Punishment or abandonment? Of course this would also be determined by how severe a taboo was committed.


Attire can be influenced by sex, class, and age in addition to the current fashions. Are only old women allowed to wear bright colors? Would a pauper be able to afford a silk gown? It’s fun to research fashion through the ages of our own world and piece together what you like. There are several sites dedicated to attire in history.


What instruments and songs do your people play and sing? Do they glorify battles or peaceful tidings? What sort of artists are celebrated? Painters? Singers? Fashion designers? What do those of high society pay to go see? Plays? Which leads into the header below.


What do your people do for fun? Keep in mind that class, race, and other difference affect the past times of your people. The wealthy might pay big money to watch a man carve a duck out of butter, but those without that kind of money to burn may spend a few coins on a sack full of sand to kick around. What sports are played? Are there tournaments or competitions like golf or rugby? Is there a limit as to who can participate in what? Keep in mind that not just anyone could walk in from the street and joust in medieval times.


Who are the poets? Who speaks for the common man against the corruption of the government on paper? What religious text is the end all be all for moral discrepancy? What shut in nobleman writes laws by day and trashy romances by night? How does literature affect your community? Is there an illiteracy problem?


Who’s famous and why? What are they famous for? Are they living? Dead? How much influence do they have over what’s fashionable or over government?


Is education a privilege only for the wealthy? Is there a sort of public school system set in place? Are women educated? Are there boarding schools and institutions? Or is there a private tutor? What doors does education open in your world?


Standard of beauty! I’m sure you’re aware of those popular youtube videos where they go over the standard of beauty in several countries over the last hundred years. Beauty is evolving much like everything else. What’s in style? I’m not just talking about people but decorum and architecture as well as many other things. What is beautiful in your culture?


Whilst language has been briefly touched on, lets not forget about dialects. Also, what kind of accents do people have? Even among those who speak the same native language, regional dialect can affect communication. Then throw in anyone who speaks it as a second language and are learning.


Is your culture very scientific? Do they call in the local priest to heal? Also, is there magic in your world that does the healing? Are there holy women? How does your civilization deal with sickness? Do they believe it to be a demon displeased with your actions? Or in the millions of tiny bacterium that riddle your body with symptoms? How does your world deal with outwardly obvious wounds? Do they clean a wound with fish oil? So many possibilities!


How does your culture fight in combat? Do they march across fields and engage in hand to hand? Is there guerrilla warfare? What rituals are centered around war? Is it glorified? Avoided? How are private disputes settled? Is there dueling or boxing? Is your society completely pacifist?

In Conclusion

As I mentioned above, this concludes my world building series. Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, I’m sure of it. Hopefully this will get you started and can help your world develop and flesh out until it evolves and grows on its own. This certainly doesn’t mean I won’t make other posts in the future relating to world building, but this is it for now! Thanks for sticking around and in the future I’ll see about making up some worksheets to get you started. Until next week!

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
World Building Part 4: Government
World Building Part 5: Calendar
World Building Part 6: Map Making


Added 06/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture

Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures

Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

World Building Part 6: Map Making


Today’s blog is going to be a little different. I’m going to present map making in the form of a tutorial with pictures. We’re going to turn my rough sketch used for reference while writing my novel into an aesthetic map for the audience to enjoy.


DB:C is considered a high fantasy and I made a map to correspond with it. This map will be featured at the beginning of both the print and ebook formats of the novel. I personally feel that you can’t have a high fantasy, or epic, without a map. This is intended for anyone who is moderately fluent with graphics programs, but not a professional. If you’re totally new to graphics programs at the bottom of the blog I’ll have a list of recommendations you can use for cheap or free. In the meantime, I used PaintTool Sai. I purchased it for $60 several years ago from the site linked and it is originally a Japanese software but the link is in English. I won’t go into detailed mechanics as I intend for this tutorial to be usable by any graphics program and as mentioned above, I’ll link to free options at the end of the blog. Also, please keep in mind the places and images are copyright to myself and are not meant for reproduction, but as a learning tool. Discover your own art style and the feeling you want to instill in your novel before the first words of your story are presented to your reader. What I’m talking about today is a map intended for your audience. Hopefully you’ve already established a map for your own records, but in the event that you don’t there’s no time like the present. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Determine Your Environment

As I mentioned in WBP1: Basics, I use the ripple effect for my world building in the beginning. I ripple outward from the start of the story and connect the pieces from there. First, before you begin your first draft of your map, determine the environment. What is the geography of the area? Does it rain a lot? Is it in a high altitude? A forest or a desert? Ripple your map outward from the locations your story takes place in and eventually they will connect. Before you begin to draw out your rough draft take a few moments to think of where your character lives. Another tip is to look at real maps! If you’re making a map for a fantasy book especially, look at old world maps for inspiration and ideas. Keep in mind however that real maps have far more detail than needed for a fictional world. You want your map to tiptoe between easy to read and realistic.

Step 2: The Rough Sketch

Yay! Now to begin! This is the first hands on step. Whether you want to doodle in a graphics program (like I did) or start with a piece of computer paper and a pencil, the first rough sketch is important. After completing this step you need to cement things into place (not to say you can’t change your mind later, but remember if you do you have to change everything else around it). So take your time and try to think of our own planet as an example. Rivers run from mountains towards oceans. Deserts wouldn’t have too many lakes or forests. Things that are common sense and even some that aren’t should be apparent. An area that gets a lot of rain would probably be farmland and would have more rivers and lakes. Forests and specific trees grow in differing environs. You wouldn’t have tropical flora growing in the north where it’s colder, or pines (not impossible, but unlikely!) growing in the heat of the equator. The specs I used for my map are 1600 x 2400 pixels with a 300 pixel per inch resolution. It makes for a large image, but remember when making images for your book (whether it’s the cover or a map) bigger is better. You can always scale down and maintain quality, but you cannot scale up. The picture quality suffers and gets blurry.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Great! So now we have our first rough sketch. Before moving on to the next step, be sure that everything is where you want it. It’s easiest to move things around now more than later. Since this is a very early version of my map, you’ll notice that changes take place as we progress. Look at those lovely mountains and trees! 😀 If you didn’t do your rough sketch in a graphics program, fear not! You can simply scan in your paper sketch and follow the same process.

Step 3: Resize & Layout

So, originally my continent was a little wider, but in order to fit the dimensions of a page (whether electronic or paper) I needed to change the dimensions a bit. In addition to that, my world map is much larger, but since this book takes place primarily in the Draak Empire and the small country of Tuplil, I had no reason to overwhelm readers with a large map. Tuplil is across the channel from the imperial isle so I cut out Tuplil from its original resting place and positioned it in the corner. This is in mimic of how maps depict the continental U.S. with Alaska and Hawaii. I placed Tuplil on a new layer.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

In fact, big tip: always use a new layer for each additional aspect of your map. This will save you so much heartache later on if you decide to completely wipe out something and start over without having to do it with the entire thing. If you don’t like those mountains, just take off your mountain layer. Much easier than erasing that portion of the map and redoing everything around it. Also, be sure to label your layers clearly (if your graphics program allows). It’s not a necessity but it simplifies and speeds up the process when you’re working and be sure you’re working on the correct layer!

Step 4: Borders

New layer! I played around with the brushes and their settings until I was able to find one with an inky consistency. Then on my new layer I traced the border with the brush. Don’t worry about smooth or fluid lines, real maps and borders are usually uneven and shaky. Also, keep in mind that old maps were done by hand and will have little imperfections. Don’t make things too smooth or too perfect.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

My borders are done! Now lets take away the bottom layer of the original rough draft to see how it looks.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Those are some solid looking borders. Throughout the time you make your map, be sure to show/hide your original drawing as needed. For those who are new to graphic art, most programs have a “layer” box where you can choose the opacity (how solid it is) or select/deselect a hide option. Google is your friend! If you’re just starting with graphic art, google “how to hide/show layer in *insert graphic program name here*”. A great source of tutorials for graphic art programs is DeviantArt.

Our next step is adding in the borders along the outer edges of our map as well as the border to separate Tuplil from the Draak Empire so we know they are two separate places. For this step, just use a simple solid brush in black and follow along the outer edge of your map. In some programs there is also an “add border” option to help. Be wary when using add border because some of them will make your picture larger to add the borders. To add the border around Tuplil I simply used a “line tool” in PaintTool Sai. Most programs have such tools.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 5: Basic Coloring

For a while I couldn’t decide if I wanted my map black and white like the classics or to go for color to take advantage of today’s technology. In the end I decided to color my map to have the option and to greyscale it later if I wanted. Something to keep in mind while looking at examples of old maps is that their color is very muted. So for the next step I colored in my most basic water and land colors to help differentiate between them. To do this I made new layers below my border layers and used the bucket tool.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Water is now your bottom layer (except for your original rough draft you use for reference). Next the land!


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Yay! The map is starting to come together and look more…mappy? XD

Step 6: Water Borders

Upon studying examples of old maps I found that most have ripples coming off from the land masses. I created a new layer and chose three different colors of blue and/or purple. For each color I followed along the border (also on a layer beneath the continent but above the water color so it doesn’t show up over my land mass) with the blues expanding out for each subsequent color like below.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Next I added what I called “water lines” around the border which were also a technique I found in old maps and incorporated. These are simple lines going horizontally along the ripples of water. I combined the two and created a sort of shadow and added depth to the picture. The color didn’t matter to me because in the end I was going to play with the hue and saturation if not just greyscale it.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 7: Landmarks

Next, I hid the layers of color and kept the border (and for some reason the ripples) and brought up my original map. I made lines where the landmarks and cities were on my map. Then I took a moment to decide what sort of landmarks I wanted on my map. I thought of having dots and their accompanying sizes represent the cities and towns, but decided to go for the old world look and instead used miniature cityscapes for character.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

After I determined the locations, I then filled in the rest of the cityscapes. I incorporated characteristics of the cities and towns into the miniatures as I think a real cartographer might do.  I also darkened their color keeping in mind they needed to stand out against muted colors.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Next it’s time to color and shade your landmarks. First I colored them in with a flat color. Then I picked a direction light would come from and gave them some simple shading with a soft brush in muted colors.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 8: Mountains

Of course, if your map doesn’t have mountains, feel free to skip to the next step! First I brought back up my rough draft to reference the placement of my mountains. I also kept in mind the mythology and origin of the mountains as well. I started with simple bumps that looked similar to the mountains of old maps. Remember, it’s okay if it isn’t perfect. You want your map to look nice, but still hand drawn (which I suppose it is!).


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

I then colored in the mountains using a rough brush that might look similar to ink as a base color. In fact it was a similar brush I used to outline my borders but a little softer and larger. Upon closer examination, I found old maps used very simple shading for mountains as well and applied the same technique. Also, remember to work in layers! I have applied new layers for the mountain outlines, coloring, as well as the shading.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 9: Inland Water

Next I once again referenced my original sketch and used the same brush for the outlining of the continent in a blue shade and softened. I followed along and used the same shaky hand technique because natural rivers aren’t smooth. I also followed along for lakes and decided to do the swamp with them. The swamp was challenging. To get a feel for the swamp I used more greens and greys rather than blue to indicate the water was muddy and stagnant. It’s a dismal place and I needed it to be reflected in the map. Then I added the trees to reflect the dead forest that resides in the swamp. It’s a desolate area. For the swamp I used a large brush and softened as I added layers of green and grey over each other to achieve the look I wanted.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 10: The Forest

To be honest, figuring out the trees was the hardest part for me. This tutorial isn’t meant for you to copy and follow my style, but to give direction and focus to your own map. Play with the aspects of it and do what makes you happy and looks good for your story. I went between simple circular trees, to pine trees, and finally settled on a thick foliage of trees.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

I used a large brush with dark green and dotted the leaves on first before adding in the trunks. Be sure to add in various sizes and opacity for the illusion of depth. I was also sure to use my eraser on a low opacity to clear up the rivers hidden beneath the foliage.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 11: Details

Yay! I have finished the major geography and landmarks of my map. Before we move on to adding names there are a few details to take care of. There’s a lot of blank space in my water. I put in some simple waves randomly throughout the map.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Next, I added some small tufts of grass to the plains.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Better! Now, lets put this together with the basic coloring.

basic color

Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Now the background colors look a little flat compared to the rest of the map. So I took a large, and I do mean large, brush and dotted darker hues of blue and green in the background to add depth. I did these over the basic color layers and beneath everything else to fit between.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 12: Hue & Saturation

Now we have our complete color map. You’re welcome to leave it in more vibrant colors. Heck, if you want it in pink and black be my guest! Otherwise, if you’re wanting to keep in with the old world theme such as myself, we need to mute the colors. This is where you turn down your hue and saturation. This effect can vary from program to program, but the great thing about doing this on the computer is nothing is permanent. You can go back and forth as you please until you find what suits you. This is the coloration I’ve settled on.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

There is also always the option to greycale, or remove color completely, where you would turn the saturation all the way down in your program. Some software have a “greyscale” option you can click to do the work for you.


Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Step 13: Names

Yay! Naming time! PaintTool Sai doesn’t have a text option, so I switched over to because of its amazing selection of text special effects (and it’s free!). Since I’ve decided to leave my map greyscale for the ebook and paperback (also, grey takes up less file space), I’m doing the text in black and white. I got a hold of my cover designer and used the same font on my cover for the map.


(Alperin) Copyright Mishka Williams 2016

Until Next Time…

Hope you enjoyed that tutorial. As I said above, keep in mind this is meant for those who are intermediate in the use of graphic software and programs. It’s a basic guide and steps to get you on your way to map making as I myself had a hard time finding any such tutorial for those who are not professionals. Will this be as good as a professional’s? No, not mine at least, but we do the best we can with the budget and resources we have.

Recommended Programs

PaintTool Sai ($60) (Free)
Gimp (Free)
Adobe Photoshop (more money than I want to pay)
MS Paint (Free and comes with most versions of windows)
Paint Shop Pro 7 (really old and free)

More From Mishka’s World Building Series

World Building Part 1: Basics
World Building Part 2: Religion
World Building Part 3: Nation Creation
World Building Part 4: Government
World Building Part 5: Calendar

Added 4/18/2016 World Building Part 7: Culture


Added 06/13/2016 World Building Part 8: Floor Plans & Architecture

Added 10/24/2016 World Building Part 9: Creatures

Added 11/21/2016 World Building Part 10: Science!

Added 12/12/2016 World Building Part 11: Medicine

Added 01/09/2016 World Building Part 12: Names

Character Sheets


Just a small side note I secretly hope no one sees. I’ve started doing podcasts of my previous blog posts for any who are interested and on the go. Also a note of copyright (that I do want you to see). All of the images above are copyright © Mishka Williams 2016.