Monday, November 21, 2011

Outlining

Most Recent Read: Destined, by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Current Read: Ganymede, by Cherie Priest
Planned Next Read: Magic on the Line, by Devon Monk
I have a confession to make. I have a book so close to having its first rough draft completed. I 'interviewed' characters prior to starting the writing process. Knew where I wanted the book to end. Knew high points I wanted to hit while writing. And then I started writing. One word after another. Straight through. To the end.
Uh, where are the chapters? You know, those minor things with the cliffhanger endings that compel the reader to turn the next page because they have to know WHAT COMES NEXT?
Umm... Going to add in those (minor? MAJOR!) details when I get done with the first draft? Uh-oh.
Yeah. So. Can I forgive myself for not doing it right the first time?
Okay, here's the thing. I have asked so many, many authors this question: what is the right way to write a book? And they have all responded the same way: there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to write a book. You have to figure out YOUR way, that works for YOU. And do it.
So, if I allow that what I did isn't a wrong way to write, then I ask myself, Was this the smartest, most efficient way I could write my first draft? The only answer I have is, No.
Now I have a 10+ foot long sheet of white paper stretched across the living room wall. It has a lovely (pink!) arc stretching from end to end. With tic marks going across the arc. Penciled in are the ending of the book and, going backwards from the end of the paper to the beginning, are chapters, with short notes on what happens in each chapter.
The reason this creative outline is backwards is because of something I already have done hundreds of times, both at home and at my dayjob. Problem solving. Whenever I have a problem to resolve, I look at the problem and ask myself, How did this get here and what do I have to do to fix it? Then I 'back walk' the problem, from step Z to step A, until I arrive at the beginning and can begin moving forward through the steps, correcting as I go, until I arrive at the problem and can fix it. So I decided to apply this process to outlining my book. Why not? It's worked for me on a daily basis for years, and it is something I am thoroughly comfortable with doing. Outlining the book this way is such an obvious answer, I wonder why I didn't see it before.
What kinds of learning experiences did you have, while working on writing your book(s) that helped you become a stronger, more efficient author?

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