Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The true evil of outlining...and OS teaser #12

Yesterday, I started a shiny new project. I love this stage of writing because it’s when the idea is fresh in my head and words just flow. This particular idea took shape pretty fast. I started out with just a seed of an idea yesterday afternoon, and wrote a chapter last night while I was sitting in the car waiting for my kids at piano lessons. As I was writing, the idea shifted and changed.

When my daughter came out from her lesson, I had her read the first four pages. She was upset that I killed a character named Joe, because she has a friend named Joe. I assured her that I didn’t kill him. He was dead before the story began…so totally not my fault. As I was explaining to her why Joe had to be dead, more of the plot became clear. I’d never done that before—talked out loud about a story idea. It was amazing how saying it out loud made me see what worked and what didn’t, as well as possibilities for where it could go. It also helped me work around to something I think is really unique and interesting. Now I have enough of this thing that I could do a pretty comprehensive outline. That’s never happened to me before. I’ve never started a novel with a solid sense of where it would end—not even Personal Demons book three. You all know how I agonized over wrapping up the trilogy when I had no clue where it was going. So, you’d think I’d be thrilled…right?

Not so much.

After what I went through pulling the Personal Demons trilogy together, it should be a huge relief to have an outline for this project. And it is…sort of. But, I discovered something about myself during this process yesterday.

I think like a reader, not a writer.

I actually find it a little disappointing to know where my story is going. I want to be surprised by my own books, just like I’m surprised by other peoples’ books. If I know where it’s going—even if it’s mine—it feels predictable. Yes, I’m crazy, but it feels like I’ve ruined my book for myself by outlining it.

I had a Twitter convo with Melissa Marr not that long ago and she said if she knows where her story is going, she loses interest in writing it. I didn’t really get that at the time because it had never happened to me. Now I do.

But…I really like this story, and the characters seem to have a lot to say, so this is where I need to rely on them. I know from experience that where the story goes is totally up to them, so even though I have an outline, we may not be following it. We’ll see.

I sent the thumbnail sketch and the first few pages of the draft off to the fabulous Suzie with the WIP I just completed. There’s always the chance she’ll tell me they both suck and to start over, but I’m pretty excited about them both =)

So, you tell me: If you write, how do your ideas take shape? Do you outline? If so, aren’t you just a little disappointed to know how it’s all going to end?

Or, am I just crazy…?

And, now for the Original Sin Teaser! One of my favorite things to write is the back and forth jabs between angel and demon. Here’s some more Luc and Gabe from Frannie’s POV.

#OriginalSin p23 Frannie: Luc pulls himself out of the chair and glares at Gabe. “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.”
“Won’t be using the door, dude.”


  1. YES! I love Luc! He's so naughty!! I ♥ bad boys

  2. When it comes to reading I don't like to know how the novel ends, but as an aspiring author I like to have a general idea of how the story "should" end. When I start to write I tend to start with my ignition idea/s and just start to freewrite in the setting to see what I come up with afterwards. Then I'll start to disect the world and start to outline the world, characters, magic system (if there is onem) etc. Once I have that all done I will do a quick rough outline the overall story. I acknowledge where I want the story to go but I refuse to set that in stone, I prefer trying to let the story go where it needs hoping it comes close to where I had planned it to go.

  3. When I'm writing, I only outline a few chapters in advance at a time. I usually have a rough idea about where the story is leading but I've found that if I try to outline a whole project I always have to keep rewriting my outline. If the character decides to be ready for something before I was then he/she has the prerogative to change my mind for me.

  4. With my WIP, I knew where the story began and I know where it's going to end. It's getting from one spot to the other that's in limbo and appearing to me as I type. Really. And sometimes I'll put something in, just a kind of throw-away scene or conversation, and I'll find out later that it's a very important part of the story. Weird. It's almost like the story is writing itself and I'm just the person whose recording it. If I want the story to go in a certain direction and try to write it that way the story stumbles. Then another direction will appear almost out of thin air and, surprise!, it almost writes itself. Just saying. (I'm having a hard time getting myself out of the way, that's why it's taking so long to write. That and the fact that my writing computer is in the shop. Sigh.)

  5. I definitely write like a reader. If I know the ending of the story, I tend to not finish writing the story. I get bored with it. It made things hard when I was typing everything up in the last book of my fantasy romance trilogy, so I know exactly what you're talking about with PD #3.

  6. I usually don't start writing with an outline. But I kinda end up with one that has a bunch of holes in it cuz while I'm writing I occationally get glimpses of things that happen later so it's kinda like putting together a puzzle. So I sometimes know the ending.

  7. Very interesting post. I had a prof in grad school who could immediately spot when I turned in a story I had "outlined" - one where I wrote *toward* an ending. It was creepy, and made me mistrust outlines. I like to write as if I am standing on a literary hilltop, and I can see where I stand, and the far-off hilltop where I will end, but the valley between is covered in mists... maybe a few treetops to mark the path, but otherwise, the journey is full of mystery.(I think Neil Gaiman said this, and better. :)

    Can I also say how much I am loving your teasers? Seriously, if I swear in my mother's Pyrex casserole dish to buy three copies of your book, will you take pity and send me a draft? Dying!! LOL