Saturday, July 13, 2013
My Muse Forbids the Use of Outlines Except Under Two Conditions
When I start writing a novel, I generally know the beginning and the end and a few key scenes in between. I know the hero and the heroine and what the main plot motivator is (and that I will be writing a steamy scene or two between them, at the right times LOL). The rest comes to me as I write.
I've read several books about script writing, not because I want to write scripts but because my books are sort of like mini movies to me and I thought well maybe I could pick up some pointers. The one I liked best was "Save the Cat Strikes Back" by Blake Snyder. His system is marvelously detailed, 48 index cards and you're done, everything laid out. The insight I took away from that - the hero starts out in one state of mind and ends in another about 90 minutes later, having gone through much angst. OK. I can admire the 48 index cards but can't make myself do them. Don't get me wrong, I loved the system but clearly it isn't for me.
So when do I outline, you may ask, that having been my headline for the post? Well, my much beloved editor on my first two Ancient Egyptian paranormal romances, Alison Dasho, did convince me to do an outline after the books were into the revision stage, because - as I've mentioned before - I have a tendency to write a few wonderful scenes that I really personally enjoy but which do nothing to advance the plot and she was trying to convince me they Had To Go. (Well, ok but I snuck the caravan episode into the next book...) But even then I didn't do a formal outline. I wrote down the "name" of the scene (in a sentence fragment) and whose POV we were in, the time frame (how many days did it take them to sail down the Nile? Uh oh, revise revise revise) and what I accomplished with the scene. I actually did find that useful, although certainly no Egyptian hieroglyphics, Roman numerals or other conventional outlining tools were involved. I've continued to do this once for each novel during revisions.
The other condition where I outline (using the term loosely) is if I've made the solution to a problem way too simple in the first draft. Then I kind of outline backward, starting with the required outcome. It's a variation on a root cause analysis tool we use in process improvement at the day job actually. In the current paranormal WIP, for example, the Witch Queen must unlock a certain item. We've spent the ENTIRE book discussing the fact that only she can unlock this item and break the spell. So I put that at the top of the page and brainstormed what were the circumstances that would cause her to take this action. There were four, two of which were totally unrealistic in this universe. So I stopped following those trails. I brainstormed the next steps for the two remaining possibilities and it quickly became obvious what the only believable (but action packed and angsty) plot developments had to be, to cause her to insert Key A into Lock B. Mwahahahaha!
So, that's where my Muse stands on outlines. (Looks around for next topic.....)
Posted by Veronica Scott
Best Selling Science Fiction & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happily Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything.