Since everything I’ve written up until now has been short fiction, I felt no real need for an outline – oh, I would occasionally jot a couple of notes to remind myself where I was heading at a given time, but I rarely know how a story is going to end when I start it (and if it’s only going to take me a couple of weeks to write it, I could keep what passed for an outline in my head.
This spring, when I was trying to decide what I wanted to write for my first novel, I took the three ideas I had and created outlines for each. (from what I’ve heard, this was almost like trying to sell a book proposal to a publisher – except the publisher was me.) I became sold on writing Swordsmaster because there was so much more detail in the outline (to me this meant that I had a better idea of where the story was going.) The fact is, I also had more passion about the story, which was what helped beef up the outline.
Armed with this outline, I began writing.
Everything was okay at first, but part of my method is to let the story go where it wants, I had 4 major plot milestones that I knew would have to happen. The first was very close to the beginning, and so I was able to enter and exit that scene as planned, with little interference from my “creative process.”
Before I arrived at the second milestone, several unanticipated supporting cast members appeared, along with some sub-plots and events I had not considered at the beginning. But when I arrived at the second milestone, the basics were still intact, and again the story exited the scene pretty much as I expected it to.
And then things began to seriously diverge from what was planned. How things wound up happening changed as cool (and better) ideas grew from the continuously evolving story elements. Characters that didn’t even exist when I created the outline took on more significance; plot holes developed and needed to be filled in. I just passed the third milestone, and how I got there and left it was different enough from what I had mapped out that I hit a brick wall, and I couldn’t see over it for almost a week. My outline didn’t help me – I was trapped.
How did I get past the roadblock?
I re-outlined. It would appear (at least for me) that an outline is NOT set in stone; it is a living, breathing document – a tool to help me get from start to finish, but not the be-all, end-all that defines the story. It helps me to define (and redefine) my next objective, but it should never tie my muse down.
There were so many unknowns when I initially outlined – characters (who seem to have a will of their own), world-creation elements that impacted what could and couldn’t happen in the story, the needs of sub-plots, all gain traction and increase in impact the further I get into the story. I don’t think I could ever create an outline that this wouldn’t eventually happen to – at some point I will need to stop and reevaluate. Generally, my stories go where they want (where would the fun be in totally controlling the process?).
Other writers are probably more able to stick with their outline than I am. Maybe I could learn to hold myself to my initial roadmap.
Nope. It’s just not me.
My featured work this week is “Close Enough” (a little light romance while mining an asteroid and dealing with government incompetence) - here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/478156?ref=NoTimeToThink
Use coupon code ZP24S to save 50% off the list price at check out on smashwords (that’s right – only a buck!) The coupon is good through September 7th. Enjoy!
William Mangieri’s writing (including his latest ePublication “Endangered”) can be found in many places, including:
- His Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
- Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri
- Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
- Createspace: https://www.createspace.com/pub/simplesitesearch.search.do?sitesearch_query=william+mangieri&sitesearch_type=STORE
To connect with him, go to
“William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook (and LIKE and FOLLOW), at: http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
Or his Goodreads author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri