Monday, December 10, 2012

Birth of a Novel: The Outline


Yes, yes, yes. These two groups work very differently and never the twain shall meet...or shall they? Most authors claim to be either a "fly by the seat of the pants" kind of writer or a strictly disciplined outliner who plots every single scene. I think in reality most of us lean one way, but borrow techniques from the other side as well. Call me Ms. Pants-a-plot...wait, don't call me that. That just sounds wrong.

Anyhoo, for my current WIP titled PINCH OF THIS, I have an outline. I did character sketches of Jennifer and William, my heroine and hero. I made sure I understood the theme which is basically "where ever you go, there you are." I really got into the motivating force so that their wild explorations make sense to the reader. There is a definite climax to the story (no pun intended, lol) and I know what each character must learn to get to the conclusion. I've outlined the book from start to finish and I'm ready to jump into the thick of it. That being said...the best laid schemes of mice and plotters...

I believe for a story to have the ring of truth to it, it has to evolve organically. Yes, I can force my will onto the story, but then it reads as forced. No matter what I think I understand about my characters and the place they need to go, I always learn something along the way and there's inevitably something about the book that has to change. It is then that I deviate from the outline (or sometimes throw it out altogether) and let the book take me where it needs to go. I've done more introspection and learned about myself and the world around me mucking around in the fictional space between my ears. It's great therapy and a lot cheaper too...not that I need therapy...hey, who said, "Yes, you do!"

Anyway, the point is that if I had to choose a camp, I'd call myself a plotter but I think it is important to give yourself the freedom to work in the manner that serves the needs of the manuscript. If that means working outside your comfort zone, all the better. An art professor once told me (and I do consider writers to be artists), in the midst of creation, if you're scared and off balance, that's exactly where you should be.

Also, if there's one thing I've learned: At some point my characters will have an uprising and Jennifer and William will take charge of who they want to be. Ahhh, characters and their wily ways, but I'll get to those slippery buggers next time. Until then, keep writing!



Gemma James said...

Well I'm scared shitless, so I guess that's a good thing, lol. I tend to be a pantster, but every now and again I'll do an outline, and usually one of two things happens: I either lose the paper I scribbled it on, or I forget which file folder I saved it to. And if I'm lucky enough to find that folder, then I have to sort through all the other outlines I'd saved and forgotten about! I outline mostly in my head, even visually as if I were seeing a movie.

I guess I like the idea of not knowing exactly where my characters are going to take me. And they have this strange habit of arguing in my head while I'm doing the dishes or driving. Writing a novel is such an interesting endeavor, and no two approaches will be exactly alike or wrong or right.

Cindy Jacks said...

Here's to being scared shitless *Cindy toasts with coffee*. I love that your characters argue in your head, Gemma. Mine do the same thing. We writers are a crazy bunch, aren't we? :)

Jacqueline said...

I know I have managed a good character when she/he takes over and writes her own story. Of course, that might bend your plot a little or a lot, but it will be worth it.

If a good idea is thrown up as I write, I tend to follow it no matter what my pre-planned plot says.

fiona maclean said...

I'm enjoying finding out how you guys put a book together. It's like 'grown-up' blogging!