Thursday, March 19, 2015

I HATE Outlining. But It's Outlining to the Rescue

I’ve never been a fan of outlining. Especially when it comes to creative writing. I’m the kind of writer who wants to start with an idea and see where it goes.

That approach is not without great limitations to accompany the freedom. Doleful Creatures proves that to me in spades, as it’s been clear through several rewrites that I took several ideas and tried to follow them along, only for them to get lost in the swamp. (There’s room here for my favorite creative metaphor, stolen from an episode of Johnny Bravo: “Man fills his diaper with the danish of ignorance.”)

It’s clear as I wrote and re-wrote Doleful Creatures that I was eating – and dumping – my fair share of danish.

So to fix the problem, I’m going back to the original topic of this post: Outlining. Not in the Roman numeral style, but summarizing, by chapter, what’s in each, who is in each, and what needs to be fixed or explored more in each. This will, overall, help me get a better feel for where the story is, where it needs to go, and what characters need to be fixed, altered, or eliminated.

As an example, here’s my look at the first four chapters:

Chapter One: Jarrod is vague about his past and says he talks to the Man in the Rock who takes some of the pain away. Hints of some past tragedy. Characters: Jarrod, a magpie; Rebekah, his lady love; The Man in the Rock, a rock formation Jarrod talks to; The Lady, a mysterious enemy, it appears; Aloysius, a badger; He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall, a benevolent counterpart to The Lady. Narrator: Jarrod.

Chapter Two: Starlings, servant of The Lady, reveal they are on their way to surveille the area where Jarrod lives. There is a cave there that holds something The Lady fears and imprisoned there, guarded by “a man.” Marmots know about the cave. Characters: Starlings, one discontent with service to The Lady. They discuss the “Sparrow-Minder.” Narrator: A starling.

Chapter Three: More about Jarrod and Rebekah, their relationship and courtship, the lay of the land where the story takes place. Hints of past activity with the beavers, likely linked to a disaster. Characters: Jarrod, Rebekah, hints of knowing the hawks. Narrator: Jarrod.

Chapter Four: The Marmots find the cave. Why? (See notes in markup). And why does Father Marmot hate/mistrust Jarrod so much? (See add’l notes in markup.) How does he become the leader, gain the title of “Father”? Lots to do in this chapter. Characters: Father Marmot. Narrator: Omniscient.

So I’ve got a lot of danish to eat in Chapter Four. And that’s okay. This method will help me get a better feel overall for what’s going on.

How did I stumble upon this method? By beta reading, of course, and realizing that outlining, my most hated of writing tasks, has a place in my tool chest.

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