Note: Thanks to Laurie Legrow for posting this and for helping me promote my book. If you’re in Newfoundland (and near St. John’s) you really owe it to yourself to check out Some Good Market, for some excellent handmade items (and my book) also please check the end for a prize!
Writing Tip: The Importance of an Outline (Two even!)
It is one of those simple things you learn in school early on (at least I did), the importance of an outline for a story. The funny part is that for all my time in high school and university (I have a Masters) I never bothered to do an outline. It was only the past few years when I started writing my book that I finally saw the benefit of it. When you have an idea for a novel/short story/blog post/whatever you just want to go with it, get it down as fast as possible. What I have discovered though is that once you get the first few chapters done you need to come up with a plan, you need to know where you’re going and as the writing continues, where you’ve been.
At first I was content just have an outline which contained four things, chapter titles, dates when the story happened, a brief description of the chapter and of course the chapter order. I found that by always at least having ideas for two or three chapters ahead I had an idea where the story was going and it always gave me something to think about in terms of scenes, characters and the storyline in general. What I’ve discovered though, with the help of my most excellent editor at Penumbra (Pat), is that it helps a great deal also to have a detailed outline. A detailed outline contains all of the above details but also describes briefly every event, small or big, that happens in each chapter. Why go to this level of detail you ask? Consistency, logical flow and evenness of the storyline and characters in your story is something that may be hard to keep straight otherwise.
Two examples from my own experiences: when I wrote my first novel “The Newfoundland Vampire” (available now ) I just had a basic outline. It gave me an idea of what happened in each chapter but with editing and changes I lost track of a couple of things. The sequence of days, while it may not sound important, if you’re going to have your characters follow the regular week that it has to be correct, otherwise readers will become frustrated and taken out the story. Another thing I missed was the time of day that the sun would set, for a vampire novel that’s important. Without a detailed outline I had the sun setting at the wrong time for September and it needed to be changed to October.
More recently while working on book two (tentatively called “Killer on the Road”) I spent a few hours and did an outline for the entire novel. While I’m sure this will change, chapters will be removed, edited and moved around but I have an idea now of where the story will go and a plan. As I complete each chapter I add to the more detailed outline discussed above.
While writing is a creative process, I have found it invaluable to be organized when it comes to writing anything beyond a short story. If you are going to create your own world it needs to make sense and outlines (at least one) make sense to me.
The Prize: You’ve made it this far so here’s your reward. Today (November 22st, 2012) my book “The Newfoundland Vampire” is free on Amazon Kindle. I hope you’ll check it out and if you do read it, I’d love a review. Feel free to get in contact with me through here. Thanks and have a great day/afternoon/evening!