Saturday, November 8, 2014

Outlining, as seen by a pantser

This is my first try at making an outline. Now that I'm 7 pages into it and approaching the climax of the plot, it's not as awful as I feared. In fact it's similar to writing a first draft, just less of it. I have something of an advantage in that I wrote 35 chapters of Draft One so I got to know the main characters pretty well. Without that, I wouldn't know where the plot should go.

There are a couple of hard things about it. First, I'm writing some new plot points so am trying to figure out how the characters act in those situations. That can take a few days of hard thinking. Second, deciding which problems I need to solve before continuing the outline and which ones can wait.

One guiding principle for the second issue is: how hard is it to solve? If I have that "so close I can taste it" feeling, I'll spend a few days on it and usually come up with something that will work. If I've tried coming at it from different angles and do not have the sense that a solution is close, I add a note in parentheses right there in the outline to the effect of, Need a reason for this.

It's happened that not solving something has led me to a brick wall. Running into that while doing the outline is a whole lot better than running into it in the middle of chapter 16 (or chapter 35), believe me.

I still have a lot of respect for writing spontaneously. That's where the emotion comes out. It's not planned for, just like in real life. You get to be the fly on the wall. If I just let my characters talk, they can come out with great lines. One example that comes to mind is in Street Glass. In music, sustain is the length of time you can hear a note after it's played, roughly speaking. Neal and Sandy are talking about relationships and Neal expresses frustration that women don't seem seriously interested in him. Sandy knows Neal is still hung up on a woman from his past and tells him: If you try to prolong the sustain, you'll ruin the song. In other words, don't hold on to relationships that are finished. Neal immediately gets what Sandy means. I love that the comment just popped out. I can't plan that kind of thing in an outline.

So, onward and upward with outline writing! I'm not going to hit 50k this year in NaNo but that's okay as long as I make strong progress. Primary goal is to finish the outline, get it into shape so I can use it to start writing chapters. Secondary goal is to write a few early chapters. I tweet about it as OwlladyWriter, using #NaNoRebel.

Writing is so cool. You learn about yourself as you go. I never thought I could write an outline or that I'd ever want to. Got a new superpower :-D

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