Friday, May 15, 2009


It's been a fun-filled week. Driving 12 hours a day some days... at which point, even Handsome begins to really get on my nerves... with some fun stops like Nashville, TN and a great blues bar, B.B. King's, and Coyote Ugly's; Charlotte, NC and the U.S. Whitewater Center (we rode an unbelievably fast, 35 MPH zip line, went rock climbing and white water rafting, which was a great break from being in the car) and Virginia Beach, VA, to meet friends and enjoy the (cold) beach.

But I've been getting some work done, too - mostly outlining work since the car seems more conducive to outlining than actually typing away on my laptop.

I did not outline my first draft of SHARDS. Which may or may not be how it ended up at 127,000 words by the time I finished, two months later than planned, but that is neither here nor there.

I have a neat two-page outline in my File Of Stuff To Send Out To Agents (also, a one-page and seven-page, since everyone asks for something different), but now that I am re-writing, I feel I need a more comprehensive outline for myself. Especially since I've decided to do a major renovation of SHARDS (sigh), but want to keep a lot of the same scenes and dialogue when possible. This may be difficult, though, since I want to change around some of the bones of the story and remove an entire subplot.

For someone as obsessive as I generally am, you'd think I would have an outlining method down, but no. I started off by outlining by chapter, i.e.:

Chapter Four: April goes home to Conner, her live-in boyfriend. She tells him that she ran into Nick, with whom she had a “thing” in college, and Conner says, “I sense lies of omission.” She asks him how he can be with someone he does not trust, and he admits he doesn’t know. April listens to her phone messages, and has a call from her mother, complaining that she never sees her. She deletes it, thinking that most mothers and daughters probably like each other, which is why they actually talk. Still, she adds “Call Mom” to her mental to-do list – a list which most certainly does not include calling Nick.

But then, I realized I needed to separately outline my key plot points and the subplot points, so that I could change these elements without having to look at each individual chapter. I'm finding that is helping me to focus on what my actual story is, i.e.:

Primary plot: Man against self. After telling many painful lies while covering up her father’s assisted suicide, April takes comfort in twisting the truth to make the world (and herself) seem better. However, her pathological lying endangers her relationship with her boyfriend, Conner, her seat in medical school, and even her sense of self. April tries to stop lying and tell the truth, but one more lie is always so tempting. To undo all the damage, she will eventually tell the truth about everything, including admitting that she helped her father commit suicide, which makes her vulnerable to her estranged mother and her competitive peers. But through this vulnerability, she strengthens her relationship with Conner, begins a dialogue with her mother again, and realizes that how the rest of the world sees her doesn't matter all that much.

It's hard work outlining a novel. Not the creative buzz of the writing itself, not the business thrill I feel when doing the grunt work of mailing out submissions. And I still don't know if I'm doing it "right". I guess only the finalized manuscript will tell.

What system have you developed for outlining a novel? Are you the type to wing it, or do you work with a full outline from Day 1? And how does your outline fit into your re-write?

1 comment:

Tess said...

outlining is a four letter word.

Still, I have found it helpful. Mine are very general. A list of characters with their tells and motivations -- a general flow of the story line -- that's about as far as I go.

Sounds like you are having a fun trip!