Wednesday, 13 January 2010
I discovered after several years of hassle that I am an outline person. A good, solid outline makes not only the whole novel writing enjoyable for me, but also gives me a better result at the end. With my last novel (NaNo Draft), I also came up with a method that works for me. So when I decided to start outlining for a new project, I figured it was no big deal. I knew exactly what I was doing. It would be a piece of cake. Well, more like a piece of plastic cake that you can't eat, as it turned out initially. There is nothing wrong with the outline bit. The problem was me. Initially I brainstorm, and in the process I know how some things are going to happen. But even before the brainstorm the idea would have had been in my brain, and I would have a general plot in mind. I started outlining along with brainstorming. What I ended up doing was writing beginning of the outline millions of times. Because I would start doing it, and when I started, I started from beginning. In one session, I didn't get very far. This happened for quite a while. Also, outlining properly means answering hard questions as to how exactly certain things are going to happen. Well, I don't know at this stage how everything is going to happen, so I went off again to something I did know. For a good few weeks then this went on, madness without method, and not much to show for it at the end. Then I decided to do NaNo in February. Here I must interject: Nothing like NaNo to get things moving. At least that's the case for me. As soon as I made that decision, I thought if I don't get that outline sorted I won't be able to start NaNo on time. So then yesterday I started with plain, old fashioned method. I took several empty sheets of paper and a pen, and began to write from the beginning what happens. There are still things I don't know, major questions that need to be answered, but this time, I do not allow myself to go back. It's just like writing a first draft. First, you must get to the end. What I am now doing is going from beginning to end with the things I do know, and where I don't know how or what I write things like - "he does something and something happens". My favourite words are "something" "stuff" "somehow" - yup, very creative. But in one day I made more progress than I made in weeks. I haven't suddenly learned a great deal of information. This information was already in my head from brainstorming and from thinking about the book, but I simply wasn't working methodically enough to finish the outline. I let myself get distracted by things that needed to be sorted, questions that needed to be answered, before making sure that what I knew was going to happen made sense. This is merely the first draft of the outline. I call it my "skeleton outline". Once that is complete, then I will go back and try to fill in the gaps about things I don't yet know. But at least by that stage, I will have a general idea of the whole story and how everything is supposed to fit as a whole, and more importantly I won't be fed up of the beginning by going over it again and again. So there you have it - even outline has creative issues.