HOW PLOT OUTLINE AND ME DON'T ALWAYS SEE EYE-TO-EYE
Posted on March 29, 2012
Okay, I have to admit – I start most of my stories without a clear cut endgame in mind. I've always trusted the process to steer me in the right direction and so far it's been a writing approach that has worked well. I don't mean to say that I don't write anything down before I start Chapter One. I do have a list of about a dozen mile markers that hit key plot points in the story, but I've never written a chapter-by-chapter outline until GRAHAM 2. This was in part due to wanting to contain the story and keeping it to a set word count.
Hah, looks like that didn't work out for me. The story complexity grew past my outline, but that's okay. I pegged the story to run about 30,000 words. Well, I'm at 40,000 and it looks like 60,000 is more appropriate. I tried the outline format after my writer friend, Keith Robinson, shared how it helped him guide his stories so successfully. And if you've ever read any of his books, you know the man knows how to plot an adventure. Anyway, I took the time to write a sentence or two about each chapter and then set off to write GRAHAM 2. As the book unfolded, I started veering from the outline by Chapter Seven. And it was only drifting into better and better plot threads. Elements were presenting themselves that fit so neatly with the narrative that I had to deviate. I had no idea that Graham would be conscripted into helping a widow who would help him deal with his grandfather crossing over. I didn't even see his need until the story veered toward that emotional beat. Now I can't picture it without the emotional scene.
As I approach the last third of the book, I can see having that initial outline was essential in getting me to focus. Every time I deviated, I had to justify it. Sometimes it meant shooting down a plot point that went nowhere (like having Graham stay longer in New Asgard) and sometimes it meant going on blind faith that the chapter could find its way to a stronger resolution (any chapter with Blord working his evil ways). Sometimes, a chapter just said Blord shows up again and it was up to me to figure out what to do. The merry cone scene was a result of such freeform writing and it's a major thread holding the book together now. I'm happy to say the narrative thrust of GRAHAM is better for combining both techniques.
Maybe I'm forever consigned to being a daydreamer. It's the only way I can explain the blind faith I put in my writing every time I start a chapter and don't have an inkling where it's going. It's probably the element of writing that gets me the most excited.
Perhaps: Enter Bully, is enough to go on to get my creative juices flowing. Seems to work when Blord happens upon the narrative.
Up Next: MUSHY STUFF KEEPS SLIPPING IN