Monday, September 14, 2009

I Try Outlining

I Try Outlining

Story OutlineI’ve worked through a bunch of outlining and issue identification for Dawn’s Rise. At this point, it looks like I may be facing a complete rewrite. The plot can’t work as is, and I would basically be rewriting the whole thing. I don’t feel like doing that. I could write endless blogs on the specific issues, but let me summarize it by saying the whole emotional journey and transformations just aren’t right. I’m not saying that it can’t be salvaged, and that it wouldn’t be worth the effort. The problems are A) I feel really burned out and B) I don’t care that much anymore about the story. I’m beginning to hate my own characters. I know I can fix this into a publishable state. It’s just a cost/benefit/sanity issue at this point.*

So, I’m going to put Dawn’s Rise aside for the time being. I’m much more interested in creating new stories right now. I’ve been working on the same novel for 7 months. I have a partial ms, a couple of ideas, and this “new shiny idea” that I’m fleshing out. You may remember me posting a whimsical “Lover’s Journey” last week. I tried writing the same thing from the woman’s perspective (a would be “Part II”), and I wound up with a decent plot. I mean, a really decent plot. It’s a classic romance: a woman has to choose between a life of comfort and wealth or a life of uncertainty with the man she loves. (Don’t ask me why I keep getting engrossed with stories featuring heroines. But the MMC** in this outline is totally kick-ass, one of the best concepts I’ve had to date, very conflicted.). Romance writer? Me?? I already know my pen name: Andrea Rose. Would make book signings…awkward.

What’s interesting is that I wrote a whole story in under 3000 words. I don’t mean a short story, I mean a whole novel-scoped story. Obviously, it’s all telling with almost no dialog. Now, the story itself is laughably bad, and my wife couldn’t stop from laughing (at me) when I read it to her, but when I stepped back and retold it from a higher level, it worked. I started fleshing it out a bit, taking each paragraph and writing a page of details. Ideas began springing into my head: hmm, this would work as historical fiction. This would work as a Western. Heck, this would be awesome as Steampunk, which would require less research and more creativity. Is this the beauty of the outline method? I captured the essence of the story, the emotional journey, and now I can fill in the settings, the dialog, the subplots and characters to make this thing breathe. I think I may start a new blog category called “Epiphany.”

I’m probably going to work on this for a week or so, and see where it goes. I know that I will return to Dawn’s Rise, but I think I need some distance at this point. I hate doing this because I really want to be able to complete DR, but I also want to enjoy what I’m working on. My other hope is that maybe with this outline method, I can craft drafts that don’t require endless revisions and critiques—that I have the “story” part of the story worked out so I can focus on the details, instead of starting with details and working back to the story.

How has outlining helped you?


A couple bloggers pointed out their series on plotting. Here's a quick list:

If you know of more, add a comment and I'll put it here.


Couple unrelated notes:

  • I changed up my blog feed so that if you use something like Reader, you should see some links at the bottom of the feed, including a link to tweet my post. If you don’t, you might need to re-subscribe to my feed using the link on the side of my blog. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it
  • Turns out that there’s a secret pinhole on the bottom of my Netbook that resets it. I couldn’t use it for a week because I thought the problem was with the charger. The battery would just not re-charge, and the Netbook would not run on AC power. When I finally found out about the pinhole, it fixed everything. Now I have 2 chargers, which isn’t so bad.

*I have no idea what outline plan this image relates to, so I neither endorse nor discourage it. It’s for decorative purposes only.
**Male Main Character


  1. Ahh, outlining. I did a three-post series on outlining a little bit ago. It's hard but necessary work for me, and it seems to work out differently for each book.

  2. Ah, sorry. Here:

    Don't Dis the Map

    You can also find it in my side bar under Helpful Posts.


  3. I feel for you. I abandoned a story after 30,000 words because my female protagonist was a doormat. I'm trying the outline approach for the first time for NaNo. It's hard - I want to write - but I suspect I'll be happy with the results.

  4. It sounds like you are making the right decision. If you are burned out on the story, better to put it away for awhile and write something else than to give up completely.

    The other stories really sound interesting.

  5. AMEN BROTHA! You needed some fresh wind. And lucky you that you have a wife that can laugh along and also see the bigger picture. I feel good vibes for you, my stranger friend.

  6. Yeah, if you are burned out and you hate your characters, it's probably better to move on for now. You never know, though, you might end up back working on it soon. Good luck with your new projects.

  7. Good for you. You have to step back from it for a bit to get the feel of what the story needs.

    I don't outline. It just doesn't work for me. I see the story one step at a time. I tried outling once and the story changed drastically from the outline when I started writing. So I decided that the outline approach wasn't for me.

  8. I'm using some of Lady Glam's outlining tips on my current rewrite and it's working pretty darn well. I do recommend setting your WIP aside if you're feeling burned out. I've done that and then come back with fresh eyes--although it took 6 months to get enough distance.

  9. Lady Glams: read it. Even commented on it :)
    Laura: The MC is def not a doormat. She's just...confused
    Aimee: She was laughing at me :(
    Lazy: Don't hate them. Just tired of them.
    Steph: Haven't done this before. I've written out lots of backstory but never plotted
    MG: I hope it works. I feel like I'm growing all the time, but banging my head != growth

    BTW Jordan McCollum is starting a new plotting series on her blog. And Lady Glams put a link to her series in the comments.
    I'll update the post to include these links.

  10. I *was* laughing at my husband, but to be fair he could read the saddest story ever out loud and could make me giggle uncontrollably. Some of it...okay, lots of it...was the story itself. He had this female romance character doing some REALLY silly things. Much of the laughter, though, I must attribute to the way he read it out loud to me. You know how, when you read a bedtime story to a small child, you'll put certain inflections in your voice? Now, imagine a grown man reading a steampunk romance, complete with a somewhat silly heroine, reading it that way. See? I'm not a bad guy, I swear!

    Once I got him to just TELL the story as it was in his head, it had a lot of real promise and possibility.

    A question for the writers with partners, though, if it's okay - how do your significant others best support you? I do try to be supportive, but it's not easy and I sure don't do a good job of supporting as often as I'd like. Any pointers?

  11. Cards. I'm using scene cards before I start to outline. I'll be blogging all about it soon. It's just something that was recommended in a book and I'm trying it out. We'll see!

  12. It's a good thing to get a way from a work -- gives the brain time to figure out the problems without author interference. Just be careful that you don't get to far away from your novel that you never get back to it. That happened to me. I set mine aside a couple of years ago to do real life stuff (oddly enough, there is a life outside of writing, blogging, internetting) and now I'm having a difficult time getting back to it.

  13. Can't believe you wrote all those books - congrats and all the best on the publishing of this one!!1

    Gives an inspiring writer like me some hope...

    Good luck!

    Holli from Ghana


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