New York bull, 2014

Am I caging my novel by creating an outline? There’s no way to find out without trying.

This week I have a mission – to finish the outline for my book. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks, by reading from some experts, plus actually drafting some outlines, mind maps and scene lists. I think it has helped, but now I have a sneaking feeling that the main point of all this has been writing avoidance. And so I’m going to finish my outline.

 In two days.

To do this I will need my skills. Here’s a quick review of those:

Things I know I’m good at:
  • Openings and hooks
  • Foreshadowing
  • UST 
  • Romantic intimate scenes
  • Humour
  • Cliff hanger chapter endings
  • Mimicking a voice I know well e.g. for fanfiction
  • Sounding confident
Things I know I’m not very good at:
  • Structure
  • Endings
  • Fulfilling on the promise offered in early chapters
  • Balance of length across chapters – actually, dividing things up into chapters at all
  • Outlining. I barely do it, have barely ever done it, but like self-editing* I now need to learn how to do it
So it seems like I know where to concentrate my efforts. But I don’t; all these elements are opaque to me. I’m starting with outlining because that gives me a shape with which to work on the rest. It’s been far too long since I wrote a spine-tingling finale. Time to change that and craft an outline for this book that will have me itching to get to the good bits.
  1. Complete reading the James Scott Bell book on Superstructure.
  2. Build on my theme mind map and add to it with a scenes mind map. Anything goes – just get it all down.
  3. Build up an order of play for my scenes, based around my theme.
  4. Check my outline against the various structures suggested by Bell and others.
  5. If there’s time, work in reading another book on structure. KM Weiland  has one, there are many others.
I still want to really study structure and outlining as I feel this is the main missing tool in my skill set. Given how well and fluently I can write, imagine what I could achieve if I had an actual plan before I started.
Hence my target for this week: a completed outline. I’m now sick of not having it done, so I need to do it.
Also …  I joined the Accountability thread in the SPS community, so now I have to. Yikes.

I’ll update on progress when I’ve finished blogging and made some.

PS: If all else fails, then there’s always this: Planning to Outline Your Novel? Don’t

*There will be more on self editing. I never used to do this and then fanfiction. Suddenly I was faced with the idea that not every word I wrote was golden. Imagine. And so I had to learn how to do things like re-read my work, and even delete some of it. I’ll share my tips for this soon.