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Shattered by C. Lee McKenzie

The outline of a novel, or the lack of it, is a hotly debated topic in the writing world. Some authors swear by outlines; others write by the seat of their pants.  There are entire books on how to outline a novel, and I’ve studied several–with more on my shelves. I fall somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser, and have always been interested in the writing process: to outline or not outline– that is the question. To answer it today, I’m very pleased to welcome my friend C Lee Mckenzie here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series.

Take it away, Lee!


If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m a pantser who uses a two to three-sentence outline that I put in the header, so I see them on each page. While I use these sentences to guide me, I also tweak them as the story takes shape. I thought you might like to see how this very brief outline morphed along the way as I wrote Shattered.

1. A skiing accident takes Libby Brown out of the running for the U.S. slalom team, and she can’t make the tryouts.

2. Libby Brown’s sure to qualify for the U.S. slalom team, but someone (who?) accidentally runs her down on the slopes.

3. Libby Brown’s sure to make the Olympic team but is paralyzed when she’s hit by an out-of-bounds snowboarder. Mystery: who did it and why?

4. Libby Brown’s a shoo-in for the U.S. Olympic slalom team when an out-of-bounds snowboarder collides with her and she loses the use of her legs. Was this an accident? Libby’s afraid she’ll discover it wasn’t, but she must know for sure or live forever shattered.

#4 was the last tweak, and it was my guideline through to the end of the story. You can see that I didn’t clearly state that I was going to have a mystery in this book when I wrote the first summary. And then the mystery gradually came to the forefront, so that by the time I wrote that last one, it was a driving force in the book.

Everyone has a different strategy for writing stories. Some outline before they write word one. Others take a hybrid approach and sketch out the storyline. Some just dive in and start, knowing where they want to wind up, but not exactly how to get there.

There’s no right or wrong way because none of us is like the other in the way we imagine or craft our stories.

I recognize that an outline is a much more efficient method–it certainly works for me when I’m writing non-fiction. However, no matter how hard I’ve tried using that strategy for my stories, I’m a total fail. The best I can do is my three sentences in the header.

Do you use an outline? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Hybrid? What was the last mystery you read? Have you read Shattered ? What books have been your top favorites this year?

About Shattered:

Nineteen-year-old Libby Brown is on her way to the winter Olympics for her shot at the Gold. But on a last practice run, an out-of-bounds snowboarder collides with her, and she wakes up in a hospital unable to move her legs. Terrible accident they say, but was it? Or did someone want her off the U.S. slalom team? Libby must find the truth or remain shattered forever.

Shattered Rafflecopter Giveaway: Click here !

More About the Author and Her Books

I'm a native Californian who grew up in a lot of different places; then landed in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I write most of the time, hike and practice yoga a lot, and then travel whenever I can. 

In my young adult books, I take on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. My Evernight Teen Publication, Double Negative was voted as one of the best top ten Young Adult books, 2019. My other books, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Sliding on the Edge, Sudden Secrets and Not Guilty are out to four and five-star reviews.  

If you visit my website and sign up for my Email Connect (emails two times a month)there's a free short story for you! Please stop by.

Website . Goodreads . BookBub . Instagram . Twitter . Facebook . LinkedIn

I've read C Lee Mckenzie's work and recommend snapping up Shattered. You can pick it up here: Amazon . B&N . Kobo . Smashwords

What writing strategies do you use? Do you create an outline? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Hybrid? What was the last mystery you read? Have you read Shattered ? What books have been your top favorites this year? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This was the first Wednesday of the month post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Founded by the Ninja writing female charactersCap’n Alex J. Cavanaugh, the purpose of the group is to offer a safe space where writers can share their fears and insecurities without being judged. This is a wonderful group--if you aren't a part of it, I urge you to join in!

The awesome co-hosts for the November 3 posting of the IWSG are  Kim LajevardiVictoria Marie LeesJoylene Nowell Butler, Erika Beebe, and Lee Lowery!


My debut literary crime novel,"You Beneath Your Skin," published by the fab team at Simon and Schuster IN is optioned to be a TV series by Endemol Shine.

readers loved You Beneath Your SkinIt is available in India here.

Worldwide, here.

Reviews are appreciated--please get in touch if you'd like a review copy.

If you’re on Amazon, I’d appreciate it if you gave my Amazon author profile a Follow, here.


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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Kalpana says:

    I’m a pantster and like you, have a short outline that also transforms as I write. What I really liked was your idea to put it in the Header. I’ve downloaded Shattered and can’t wait to finish what I’m reading so that I can start yours.

  • I always make an outline for the entire novel by chapter. Then write a sentence or two for each chapter. It keeps my focus on the story. Of course, the outline goes through several revisions as the writing progresses.

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Shattered is a great title. I generally do a four sentence outline… the situation, what goes wrong, what makes it even worse, and the outcome/solution. I write them in a bit more detail, but no more than one line each. I used to be a complete pantser, but now I have structured pants. 😀

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – not writing books … I just admire all those who do. Your ‘You Beneath Your Skin’ was superb for adults … while l’ve just posted about Lee’s new Young Adult book – also a great read … and she got her title right ‘Shattered’ … tis so. Cheers to you both – Hilary

  • While I can appreciate input from experts and seasoned writers, I’m still in the camp of do-whatever-works-for-your-writing. Each of us is unique in our approach to storytelling and need to be comfortable with it. When I first began writing seriously, I read a lot of so-called advice from the experts. What it helped me do was find my way to write, whether it included outlines (it does) or not. As long as what you do leads you to your goal (a finished, published work), then don’t stop doing it. And don’t worry what others think about it.

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    I love Lee’s books – looking forward to this one … maybe once NaNo is over 🙂
    I love having that thesis statement in the header – smart! I try to write the blurb first and use that as my guide. It changes as well 🙂

  • cleemckenzie says:

    Thanks for hosting me here today, Damyanti. I love your blog and a chance to talk about how I built Shattered.

  • setinthepast says:

    I can’t write anything without a plan.

  • JT Twissel says:

    At some point if you want your novel to be realistic than an outline is necessary. But I never start with one. Good luck with the new novel!

  • soniadogra says:

    Lee is a gifted writer. For me, I’d probably produce nothing without an outline. Shattered is on my tbr.

    • cleemckenzie says:

      Thank you, Sonia. How does a poet proceed when creating a poem? I suppose it’s a lot like any creative endeavor–each one finds the best way.

  • rxena77 says:

    I believe that outlines take the spontaneity out of a novel. But I need an outcome to head for … even if the characters take over and land the story at another port! Lee, your novels always take me on riveting journeys.

    • cleemckenzie says:

      I guess that’s how I feel about outlines, too when it comes to fiction. Sometimes I’ve written the last chapter first and then headed toward The End. That seemed to work. I’m so glad you enjoy the books that come out of my haphazard approach. And thanks for saying so.

  • There isn’t a right or wrong way. It’s all about what works for the writer. Congratulations, Lee!