There are different skills involved in writing long works, and one of them is organization. I’m love making outlines and lists. Here are some of my go-to’s.
For Pacing: Everybody’s Got Plans
Every scene should advance one or more plots, so I give each character an outline of where they’re going and how they plan to get there. In my serial romance Bloom, side character Xavier would like to be a famous artist, but he’s very jealous of Ty, who’s got more talent. Also, Xavier is an ass. So his list looks like this:
1. Get a gallery show (done by the start of the story)
2. Promote yourself and put other artists down
3. Micromanage and complain to gallery staff, but suck up to the owner
4. Exploit the weaknesses of other artists at the gallery: so if Ty is romantically interested in the DILF maintenance man, go to the owner and try to get Ty kicked out of the gallery (Spoiler alert: this does not work out for Xavier.)
This list is not in any particular order, but for any scene that involves Xavier, he should be working on one or more of these steps.
For Big-Picture planning: Themes & Metaphors
What is the story trying to say and how is it going to say it? Here are two I used in My Hero, a superhero/human romance:
1. Theme: Hidden identities. This is shown in every major character. Our superhero Helen’s got a secret identity as a reporter. Her love interest Gina has hidden talents that she uses in her job as a bodyguard: she’s observant and good at tracking people and breaking into electronic devices. Helen’s best friend Melody is a trans woman Helen met in kindergarten, and their teacher explained that people can be one thing on the outside and another on the inside. And the villains in the story are rich assholes who hide their underhanded dealings.
2. Metaphor: Rain. The plot of My Hero revolves around a dam that’s in danger of failing after shoddy upkeep (by those rich assholes). Heavy rain throughout the story threatens the dam, but rain has more than meaning. Helen, as a nature spirit, has some control over the rain, and that ties her to her father, a guardian of the forest. There’s also a scene where Gina takes out a gunman after removing her rain jacket so she can blend into the forest better, showing that Helen and Gina are growing closer, and that Gina can fit into the natural world Helen inhabits.
For Romances: What is romantic about ____?
Tollense is a vampire/human romance, and there are a lot of beloved pieces to this trope which became scenes for the story. So what’s romantic about vampires?
1. The competence kink. You know what’s sexy about vampires? They’re strong, fast, and in Tollense, they can teleport. So we need vampire rescues, which Kurt does for Liam several times.
2. The Other. There is a lot of uncanny valley stuff going on with Kurt, so he’s both intriguing and a little off-putting. It’s good to show Liam react to him in a favorable way, while strangers are totally creeped out.
3. Old souls. What would it mean to be with someone who is millennia older than you? Well, for one, they’re probably really good in bed. I MEAN they have lots of fascinating stories to tell. Yep. So include some of that in the story.
4. What draws in the vampire? It’s highly romantic to have Kurt helplessly fall for Liam after millennia of keeping his heart protected. So what does Liam have that no one else does? He’s just the best friend Kurt’s ever had. So scenes should show their friendship developing, and Kurt experiencing a level of feeling that’s new to him. (And now we need to make a list of what is romantic about a best-friends-to-lovers romance.)