Once upon a time I decided to write a book. I'd taken some creative writing classes in college, and I'd read thousands of books, so I had the basic idea down. I got out my computer, opened to a fresh document, and started typing.
That project was a bust. I stopped, thought of a new idea and started writing again.
That project was only marginally better. It got trunked, too.
Then I got this GREAT idea. SOO much better than the others. I devised a magic system. I built characters, backstory, and genealogies. I started right at the beginning of the conflict and off I went. My MC cried 5 times in the first three chapters. She was a total wimp. Still, the basic idea still seemed workable, so I did some tinkering and kept writing. It was amusing. It was fun to write.
At the end of chapter 4, I had no idea where to go from there. I'd written myself into a corner and couldn't get out. Just what did I want this book to be about, anyway?
So I tried outlining. Epic. Fail. How the heck was I supposed to know what happened next before I saw what my characters did with the last disaster I threw their way? Fuggedabout the WHOLE PLOT. Outlining was clearly not for me.
Then I read this great book by Evan Marshall called The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. I made it my bible, developed an elaborate spreadsheet (yay spreadsheets!) and was finally moving forward. If you haven't read it, I recommend it. Now, I didn't follow the whole Plan in detail (sorry Evan). I filled out the section sheets in my spreadsheet, but I didn't go through the whole book before writing the first word. My favorite part about the Plan was the system of benchmarks--you set several benchmarks and drive your characters toward them. It totally worked. Still, even with the major plot benchmarks, I could never actually plan more than 2-3 sections ahead of where I was. If I tried, I ended up changing most of them when my characters refused to do the ridiculous things I was requiring of them (you would, too).
So that's how I got through the first draft of my very first WIP, but I keep hearing about these outline things. So many people swear by them. I do love organization....
Aprilynne Pike, #1 NYT Bestselling author of WINGS, SPELLS, and the upcoming ILLUSIONS. I first met Aprilynne at LDStorymakers 2010, where she served as my bootcamp instructor. (Oh, yeah. I'm cool.) She absolutely murdered my chapters with her red pen, gave me tons of great advice on how to tighten everything, and was generally invaluable. Also completely funny, down-to-earth, with a dry wit and wonderful imagination--which shows in her books.
Aprilynne will be joining me on David Farland's Authors' Advisory tomorrow night, Wednesday, April 13, 2011, at 9:00 PM EDT. She will be telling us how to Outline. (Also, we might try to pry some details on ILLUSIONS out of her....) Please bring your outlining questions (I know you have them) and join the call. See the Authors' Advisory blog for call-in details. Talk to you then!