Lagging…For Want of an Outline

Monday, October 1, 2012



I wish I could say I was working feverishly on Retribution (Sequel to Distraction), but I’m moving at more of a leisurely pace.

Okay, let’s be honest, I’m at a standstill.  I believe it’s ’cause I didn’t have an outline and now subconsciously think I have too much to do to get to the finish line. This was a 2009 NaNo project and for whatever reason, I didn’t do what smart folks do and write even the vaguest of outlines. 

So here I am nearly three years later and I’m realizing there are things that need 
fine-tuning, including:-

  •  Timeline that needs shifting.
  •  Household helper that needs to be properly incorporated into the timeline.

  • Boyfriend that should have a role other than to rile up his girlfriend’s father.

  • Minor characters/situations that need to be fleshed out a bit more.

  • A soon-to-be-ex-wife that’s a loose cannon, but doesn’t have a mental problem.

  • A final chapter that needs to be written.

Now, I’m not saying one size fits all and that you should run off and write an outline. I’m just saying that if you haven’t tried it before, it bears thinking about. An outline has never stifled my creativity. I know I’m the god of my story, so nothing is set in stone. 

I’m not talking about documenting nitty-gritty details. An outline can be as simple as one line describing how each plot point takes your story from beginning to end or what’s supposed to happen in each chapter.  As you write more stories, outlines save lots of time and aggravation. Trust me on that. 

Those of you who visit fairly often might remember me making mention of my adventures with my debut novel Contraband. I wrote that book in less than six months and then spent five years getting it to where I thought it was decent enough for a publisher to take it on.

You’d think I’d learn from my mistake, but here I am, diddling with sentence structure and dialogue instead of doing what I need to do to move forward. Ya know, printouts work very well when I run into these problems, but I don’t want to start wasting paper, knowing that I’ll do 2-3 sets of prints and read-throughs before I’m satisfied. 

Anyhow, if you write, save yourself a ton of pain and suffering. Write an outline. 




And on another matter, it’s time to announce the winner of The Naughty or Nice Giveaway Hop Based on the Rafflecopter, Sheena-kay Graham won that giveaway, which is a copy of Hardware, my romantic suspense novel. 

Congrats, Sheena! 

I’ll email you.

40 comments:

  1. I hear you about out-lines. I only started using them within the last few years. I love that line, "I'm the god of my story..." So true!

    Now, breathe in breathe out and get to work! :)

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    1. They do work and I do need to get moving.

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  2. Thanks for reminding me that it's okay to make mistake or to change the way we do thing.

    Similarities to my journey.

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    1. Peaches, boy have I made many during my journey, but I like learning, so it's been interesting.

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    2. Are you going to include more of the Jamaican proverbs at the top of each chapter? I like how they relate to the chapter, but are you going to run out of them?

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    3. That's another thing I should add to the list of things to do. I think we've got more than enough for me to find another 40 or so good ones. :)

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  3. Hi Joy. Interestingly, at our recent Brisbane Writer's Festival all the author's workshops I attended were authors who were pantsers. I was very surprised as my default is pantser and had been convinced by bloggers that plotting was the way to go (even though common sense has proved to me that it doesn't work that way for me). Anyway, I've also written 3 (still incomplete) novels from the past 3 NaNos which I do occasionally try to finish. Maybe this NaNo will be the time i outline, write and complete my first finished novel. Here's hoping. Roll on November. I wish you all the best with Resolution. I know it's going to be amazing as are all your books.

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    1. Hey, Denise,
      Yep, I know one size doesn't fit everybody. I think I work the way I do because I'm a lazy writer. When I write without knowing where the story is supposed to go, I have too many holes that need to be filled and that takes waaaay too much time to fix. Better for me to know where I'm going so I don't have too much reconstructive surgery on the edits.

      I hope NaNo will be good to me this year, but lately, I can't seem to stay with it. Too many other things going on, I think.

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  4. Sounds like a cautionary tale. I'm sure you will get it sorted, though. I'm not sure there is any such thing as a complete plotter or pantser. I'm not sure that anyone can write without even the vaguest idea of what's coming up, though I could be wrong. I think the key is to have a basic outline so you don't feel totally out on a limb, but always be ready for things to go off on their own tangent. Best of luck!

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    1. Thanks, Nick. I agree with you that there isn't one thing or another in full. Being lazy, I'm always amazed when people say they trash pages of writing and start over. This convinces me that writers are a nutty lot.

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  5. I have an outline of sorts. It's more a timeline. Plus I have character arcs and a plot. Nothing is put together, but it's what I'm working from.

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    1. Someplace to start from, some character growth along with a loose plot sounds like a plan. :)

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  6. You are so right about outlines, Joy. Even a pantser should have a general idea of the beginning, middle, and end of the story. I have written only one manuscript where I didn't have a skeleton outline, and it was, indeed, the hardest to write. Thanks for the reminder. :)

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    1. They save so much time that I really like using outlines.

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  7. I always outline! I don't necessarily stick to it-the writing process brings forth new inspirations and ideas-but I need that blueprint to keep me on track and avoid plot holes. Good luck with your novel, Joy!

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    1. Thanks, Laura, that's so true about outlines. No going off down paths you might have to eliminate later.

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  8. That's my motto. I've outlined from the beginning, but still leave room for creative detours if the need arises. :)

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    1. David, yes, it's good knowing that things can happen, but for the most part you know where you're going.

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  9. I outline, then tend to ignore it.

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    1. It's nice to have it just in case of an emergency. :)

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  10. I can never start a story without first outlining it. but i make sure to leave room for sudden twists and turns, too, while I'm writing:)

    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Twists and turns I like and my outline is a safety net to catch me from going way of course.

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  11. Outlining is good. At least you have a road map of where you want to go.

    All the best, Joy!

    Nas

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  12. I'm printing a mess of novel outline info and instruction sheets for both Nanowrimo 2012 and for my WIPS. I've learnt from a lot of stalling that an outline can only help me. Best of luck with Retribution and so glad I won your giveaway.

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  13. I love outlining. I wish I'd learned to do it sooner. It saves SO MUCH time!!!!!

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    1. Yes, definitely a time saver, which is a good enough reason for me to even have a clue what I'm supposed to be doing with my story.

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  14. I do basic outlining. It usually keeps shifting as I get farther into the story. I do understand the end before I begin, so I have that common focus always, and I usually have the big turning or plot points in mind. How I move from point to point often shifts. So I usually just outline a few chapters at a time. The big picture rarely shifts, though.

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    1. I'm with you, Mary. A basic outline works for me and knowing the big-picture details is most useful.

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  15. I totally understand. If I don't have an outline, I can't get anywhere.

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  16. I'm a huge fan of outlines, though writing the outline is my least favorite part. I love to dig in and write! :) I've found (the hard way) I save huge amounts of time when I have a nice outline. I keep it fluid, of course, but it helps me to have the bones of my story laid in front of me.

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    1. I can relate to that, Dawn. I don't like stopping long enough to write them either, but they help not to get stuck later.

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  17. outlines are so helpful! but youre right, they arent a cure all!
    and congrats sheena!

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    1. Yep, they sure won't fix everything, but they do help things along.

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  18. ... and that's exactly what I'm busy with at present... an outline... but I suspect that I'm spending way too much time on it? Is it possible to have too much of a detailed outline? If that makes sense?

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    1. You can do as detailed an outline as you like, Michelle. Thing is to know you have the flexibility to veer off course if it helps the story. It's also possible to use it as a way of avoiding writing. :)

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  19. Good luck on your project. You can do it. I myself have to plan or I'm lost.

    Congrats to Sheena.

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    1. Thanks, Medeia,
      You're a source of inspiration for me.

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