Thursday, January 19, 2006

Curse of the Outline

I usually write with a detailed outline. I'm anal and I like to know what's going to happen next when I sit to write. The most fun of the writing process to me is coming up with that initial idea, that first hook, and then developing a plot and characters around it. Unfortunately though, once I have the outline, the fun is over and the work begins. I have to sit down and flesh out the one or two sentence -- if that -- description I've written into a bona fide scene. Sometimes it's fun, like when my outline just says, "Life in Bristol" and I figure out how to describe the setting of eighteenth century Bristol while also advancing the plot. Sometimes it's tedious, like when I wrote, "The pirates attack" and now I have to choreograph a battle.

Another problem with the detailed outline is that it's a very constricting way to work. More than once have I found myself getting behind in my outline because I have more to say about a scene than I'd planned for. When that happens, I usually end up adding a chapter, and it's kind of scary to leave the outline and then figure out how to get back to it again. It's also kind of exhilarating though.

Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't just try flying without an outline. Since I set aside the Pirate Novel last fall to concentrate on comics stuff, I've come up with a very cool idea for a modern-setting horror novel. I don't think I'm going to outline it. I know basically what I want it to be and I'm thinking it'll be more fun and liberating to just start writing it without having the plot specifics down; to just develop some characters and start writing about them without knowing exactly what happens next.

I'm going to have to try it if only to see if I like it.


Anonymous said...

Kinski say....

Outlines is just that ... broad strokes, beat points. If you have more ideas ... then write the scene. It's not sequential art ... past it in later. If you're on it with a certain scene, do it.

Thas my story and I'm sticking to it... Ha!!

Michael May said...

I'm not sure I can be that flexible. I've got a broad outline like that in my head, but I know myself well enough that if I put it on paper, I'll keep working on it until it's a full-blown deal.

Anonymous said...

Kinski replies...

See ... I am the reverse ... I am entirely too flexible. I'll often write scenes in the middle 'cause they seem cooler at the time. I'll have to send you the current draft of the Lobo Rojo project ... I'm almost tempted to say it's done, as elliptical as it. Ha!

And that should say "paste in later" Bleh! Foolish typing, who will save you now???


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