Next in the Process: Outlining
Okay, so getting back to this whole “How I write a book” series.
Lessee, I’ve blogged about the thinking and the “moments” and the research and the imaginary casting call for my characters. Once I’ve let all that ferment for a while, I usually sit down and outline.
Well, sort of. This would not be a formal-looking outline, with neat indents and A’s and IV’s and etc. This would not even be a scene-by-scene outline. It’s more like, I sit down with my laptop and just spew out all the notes and scenes and dialog that have been coalescing in my brain, in somewhat sequential fashion. Some bits will be very fleshed out, with whole chunks of inner motivations and dialogue. In other parts, I’ll have something like “they encounter difficulties”–meaning, the difficulty will be mine when I reach that section and must figure out what the heck should happen.
I begin at the beginning, and I work to the end. The end result is messy and uneven, but this is the stage where it starts to all come together as a story. And to swipe the motto of one of my soon-to-be publishers, “It’s all about the story.”
I have writer friends who swear by storyboards, post-its, index cards, spreadsheets, and the like. I’ve tried them all. I’ve learned this: I am allergic to squares. Trying to fit a story into a series of boxes…erg, it makes me break out in hives. To me, a story is linear. It has a beginning, it has an end, and those two points are connected by a line. (not a straight line necessarily, but a line nonetheless) I can’t look at squares and see a story. That is not to disparage anyone who can, of course. We’re all different, God bless us. As shown in the photo above, some people can take squares and make beautiful art with them!
But no squares for me. I just write out whatever I’ve got into a big long Word file, and I name it something ridiculous and save it. Then I rarely look at it again. Just like I almost always leave my shopping list at home after I’ve written it out–but I still remember 90% of what was on it, once I get to the store. The other 10% was probably stuff I didn’t really need.
How is your holiday shopping list coming? Do you take a list with you to the store? Are you allergic to any particular geometric shapes? Do you see a story as a line, a grid, a string of beads, an Alexander Calder sculpture, other?