Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lost at Sea, No Map, Won't Ask for Directions...

Current Reading: Falling Sideways, by Tom Holt

Inspirational Quote: "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." -- W. Somerset Maugham

I think novel writing is a like an ocean voyage. I know where Ithaka is, I'm just not certain how to get there. And I keep getting sidetracked by sorceresses and monsters.

Okay, obviously not an ordinary ocean voyage. This ship doesn't even have shuffleboard, let alone a fully-stocked bar.

But I digress.

I got a little side tracked a couple of weeks ago. I was making no real progress on the Magnus Somnium. I went back and rewrote passages without making them better. I wrote upcoming scenes. I found other things to do. I was crossing the same patch of ocean without finding a way forward.

I'd almost reached the third act of the book, the one packed with action. All the revelations, surprises and back stories are out of the way and it's a straight downwind run to port. It should have been easy. It wasn't.

So, in a fit of creative dithering, I decided to do something I've never done before. I wrote an outline for the remaining portion of the book. It's not much. It takes up about half a page. It's just a breakdown of the important actions that have to happen in each chapter to lead up to the resolution: X does this, Y does that, and Z gets in the way.

It's had a remarkable effect, though. I won't say that my writing has improved because I think it lacks depth and resonance. However, I'm making considerable progress now that I've got a decent set of charts. I'm willing to sacrifice a little depth because this is only a second draft, and there will be opportunity to resonate in the third.

I've never been one for outlines. I've always felt I knew well enough where things were going that I didn't need to put it down. However, the very act of writing down the outline has clarified my direction and sharpened my focus. The end doesn't seem as far away or unobtainable as it did a few short weeks ago.


I may be an outline convert. I'll have to see how things go.

1 comment:

slcard said...

So glad your "Great Dream" is coming together for you. It will be worth the storms.