Sunday, May 7, 2017

outlines & secret draft

Probably from high school or college, some writers got the idea you have to create an extensive outline in order to write a novel.

That is not true. 

If you are motivated to create something unique and interesting, a novel that will seize the attention of your readers and reviewers, outlining, can really screw up your book. Some authors take months to do their extensive outline, planning, analyzing and restructuring the story before it’s even written. Not a good idea.

Writing fiction is creation, not homework.

When you do an extensive outline and create character biographies for every single character before you start writing the novel, you are extracting the creativity from your book.

As Margaret Atwood wrote in The Paris Review, “When I’m writing a novel, what comes first is an image, scene, or voice. The structure or design is worked out in the course of the writing. I couldn’t write the other way round, with structure first. It would be too much like paint-by-numbers.”

Write without advance planning and you create.

The best writing will come to you, as you are creating it when you are discovering what happens. Listening to the characters you’ve created supports your plot.
Outlining everything ahead of time leaves no room for you to discover what the book is about. Paraphrasing Margaret Atwood, it replaces the creativity of your writing with “write by numbers.”

Outlines written before you begin can cause you to eliminate much better ideas as they come along. Out-lines water down creativity because you don’t consider alternatives as often. If you write to the outline you created weeks or months before, you will write only what you had decided you were going to write before you had even begun the book. That has a chilling effect on what could otherwise happen.

Start writing wherever you want to, whether it’s beginning, middle or the end. Write until you arrive at the point where you have no idea what comes next. Then, keep writing and discover what the next sentence is. Push on to the next one. Keep finding words, which turn into sentences, and each one will lead you to the next. The less you know before you start, the more you stand to uncover as you write. That is creativity.

I made the outline mistake my first time.

For my first Veronica Slate mystery novel, Kill Cue, because I had never written a novel, I fell for the outline scam. I wrote an extensive single-spaced 18-page outline. As I wrote the book, things naturally changed. Thank goodness, I went with the changes rather than sticking to the outline.

However, like a dummy, after I sent in the manuscript to my New York editor Judith Stern, I revised the outline to match the book. (That’s how I discovered New York editors do not give grades for outlines. Not even a pat on the head.)

That experience taught me I had devoted too much time to writing an outline, time I should have spent writing the book.

Above from the book NOVEL SECRETS,
available for Kindle for only $2.99:

Lary Crews