Some writers outline their books before they start to write. That's fine if it works for them, but it's not my way of doing it. I like to start with a vague idea and work my way through it one chapter at a time.
Today I found myself in a little bit of a lull in my day, wondering how to get to the dramatic ending of Sexton Sand, the 4th book in the Sexton Chronicles. I'm not stuck--I've been busy for the past several months trying to promote the other books in the series, my collection of short stories, and tinkering with my book about the 9 weeks I spent in Peru in 1987.
Step one: Stop playing around with the other stuff for the moment and finish this book. (It's one of my favorites.)
Step two: On a scrap piece of paper, I wrote the names of the 3 groups of main characters and their locations, with one group in the upper right corner, one in the middle left side, and one on the bottom.
Step three: In the lower right corner I wrote the whereabouts of each of the main characters at the end of the book. (I know the end, remember. It's the here to there I needed to work out.)
Step four: Drew arrows between where the characters are now and where the characters are at the end of the book.
Step five: On the lines between the arrowheads, I wrote a sentence summarizing the action that must occur in order to get them from where they are now to where they will be at the end of the book.
And now it's time to do Step six.
What's "Step Six?" Thanks for asking. Step Six is when I shut the hell up and get busy before I forget how to interpret this drawing...