More on outlining

In the comments of some of the other posts someone asked me for more details on outlining…ask and ye shall receive ūüėČ
As I previously mentioned I have two steps to outlining.

  1. The initial outline 
  2. The detailed outline

Amazing…I know! ¬†I have a patient pending on this method–it’s such an original idea. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†The initial outline really just establishes the skeleton of the book(s) and I have a Scrivner¬†folder (one per chapter) that gives just a few bullet points.

When it comes time for the detailed outline, or as I create characters, places, and groups), I add meat to the bones. I still keep it simple (more bullet points). It’s a dynamic flow. In some cases filling out the detailed outline will cause a person/group/place to come into existence (sometimes just added to my master list, sometimes requiring a character study or place/group description. In other cases, it’s when I create this “thing” that I think about where would be the best place to introduce them, and I’ll open up the summary outline and add a detail bullet point for me to introduce them.

The best way to illustrate the technique is with an example. I’m going to use the first chapter of ¬†Theft of Swords because it is a book that is already released and you already read the first chapter that was created from this outline on¬†Amazon¬†just click on the cover (to use the “look inside feature”). ¬†I suggest you look over this outline first then read the chapter to see how the various bullets play out.

Initial Outline 

  • Royce & Hadrian robbed on their way to Chadwick Castle
  • Archibald’s fails an attempt to blackmail Victor Lanaklin

Detailed Outline

  • Robbery
    • Who? – ex-members of¬†Crimson¬†Hand
    • Reaction? Royce impatient – Hadrian attempts a “peaceful” resolution
    • Humor? Royce give’s pointers to robbers
  • Blackmail
    • How? Letters – that will be stolen by R&H out from under Archie’s nose
    • Love letters between Alenda and Gaunt
    • Details? Show how well protected room is – let reader try to figure out what happened and how

In addition to the “what” happens I also have notes about “seeds” to plant ¬†– and notes of world-building things to drop. These are things that generally will be used later

  • Points to make -Robbery
    • Hadrian – three swords – big one on back / Royce dark cloak (no visible weapons)
    • Amrath in Essendon & Ethelred in Warric, Colnora a trade city
    • Archie – the inept¬†clotheshorse
  • Points to make – Blackmail
    • Archibald’s ambition & that he has powerful knights
    • Archie wants Alenda – mainly for increased position, but thinks she’s attractive too
    • Lightly introduce political structures
    • Mention of Myron, Enden, Breckton, & Degan
  • Name dropping
    • ¬†Myron, Breckton, Enden
    • Political factions: Royalists, Imperialists, Nationalists
    • ¬†Degan Gaunt

In the above, The Crimson hand came into being because I needed someone to rob Royce and Hadrian. ¬†I already had a powerful thieves’ guild in Colnora that Royce had once been a part of ¬†so creating another one in another city made sense. ¬†In fact, this is a revised outline that was enhanced during the Orbit rewrite. In the “original” there was no such scene. But feedback from my editor and the fans indicated that the book should start with an introduction to Royce and Hadrian so they came into existence. Now that they exist, they are fodder for future works. For instance when I wrote The Rose and Thorn (coming out September 17, 2013), I was now able to “tap” this newly created group and provide more about them in that story.

But as I said it goes the other way around. ¬†The city of Colnora, ¬†the political parties, and Degan Gaunt already existed and I was making sure I touched briefly¬†on them here. Putting them in the detailed outline of chapter 1 book 1 may trigger my mind to some ideas I have for other books further down the line, so I’ll open their initial outlines and put some bullets in them as well.

Because I write chronologically most of these detail points will go to future books, but it can go the other way around as well. For instance, when doing the simple outline of book #2 I needed a powerful knight. ¬†Since my “places detail” already indicated ¬†that the best knights come from Chadwick I created Enden and it made sense for Archibald to use him as bragging point – so that made me open up book #1 and make a note for Archibald to mention him. In the same way, Breckton is a major character for book #5 so it made sense to put a reference to him there as well.

These “little threads and details” aren’t supposed to be noticed by the reader of book #1 – but in a re-read people will see the connections that were there all along, lurking beneath the surface. ¬†It provides the Easter Eggs that makes the re-reads more fun.

Outlining this way may seem like there is little room for discovery – but that is not so. ¬†At the time of writing chapter 1 the letters were just love letters. ¬†But as the book unfolded I realized that I could “up the ante” by making them “covert correspondence” between Victor and Gaunt with Alenda acting as a liaison to¬†help her father. This gave her character an added depth that led me to add some bullet points to future books to capitalize on that “discovery.”

One other point I should make. There is much that the detail outline doesn’t cover that will affect what is written when ¬†it comes time to start that chapter. For instance, in Archibald’s character study I note that he really hates anyone calling him by his nickname “Archie” ¬†so I’m able to work that detail in to the exchange with Victor in this first chapter…both as a way for Victor to get under Archie’s skin and also to set the stage for something that will come up time and again throughout the series. ¬†It didn’t show up as a bullet point here – but as I started writing other books I would review their detailed outlines and see if there were places that made sense to have similar exchanges. ¬†This would cause me to add some more bullet points right before starting that particular book.

Well I hope this helps to understand my process a bit. In the next post I’ll talk a bit more about the character studies.

Process

So I thought people might want to know my process in writing. ¬†After all that is what this blog is for…and here it is.

    • Conceptualization¬†– For me starts usually when I’m working on another book. Basically lightning strikes and I say, “That’s a great idea for a book.” But because I’m already engaged in another project, what I do is jot down a note. Usually in ¬†my writer’s notebook for my “current” book I’m writing, but it can also be on napkins, in my ipad, or various other places.
    • Runway clearing – Means getting all my other projects wrapped up so they are not¬†interfering¬†with my next project. ¬†Basically I’m about to take a big dive underwater and I don’t want to be distracted so all my other works have to be “done/done”
    • Collection – I start a new notebook for “this book” ¬†I copy all the notes that are scattered across all the places mentioned above and I start putting them down in a notebook of their own.
    • Mood setting – I start gathering up music and images that set the mood for me to play / refer to as I start building my world.
    • Gathering words– Generally means coming up with a long list of names: places, people, races as well as phrases: slang, swear words or construction of words for a particular race and how their language is structured.
    • Research – Weapons, clothing,¬†jewelry, customs, monetary systems, government or religious structures.
    • Mapping – Step one is to make a map and start defining regions and determining who lives where and what conflicts/alliances they may have with their neighbors.
    • Outline – The entire series from start to finish and determining what the focus will be for each book in the series and what will be its climax and major conflict/resolution.
    • Character Studies – Going through each person and defining what their motivations are, their strengths and weaknesses, their desires, their fears.
    • Detailed Outline – Putting some meat on the skeleton that was my original outline, so I know exactly where to start and where I’m going to.
    • Saturation – by this time the characters have started talking to me, I hear their dialog I see the scenes being played out. I know I’ve got to start writing as they are busting the seams of my brain to get out.
    • Writing – Finally sitting down and writing the book.
    • First reader – Giving the book to Robin to see what she thinks
    • First revision – Going through all of Robin’s comments arguing with her to make sure what she is saying makes sense, then adjusting the story.
    • Read as a reader –¬†I’ll now sit down and read this as if I were a new reader coming into the book for the first time – while doing so I’ll make notes of what works, what doesn’t what adjustments have to be made.
    • Second revision – Incorporating all the changes form my reading session
    • Beta readers – Giving the books to “readers” and “writers” that I know and trust to see what they think of it. ¬†This generally means changes, although minor in the overall scheme of things.
    • Submission for publication – Now it’s ready for my editor and agent to see.
    • Content adjustments – I actually skipped a step because this is assuming the book is picked up by the editor (which isn’t a guarantee) but if it is then the content editor will go through the book and write up what they think needs to be changed.
    • Third revision – Same process that I went through with Robin, but this time with Devi, or any other editor that might be assigned to the project. ¬†Generally after this the book will be “accepted” by the publisher.
    • Copy edits – a copy editor will go through the book and mark up grammar issues, find continuity issues, restructure awkward sentences etc. ¬†For the most part this is just a matter of ¬†“accepting” everything they say. ¬†At this point the book goes to “layout”
    • Proofing – Another read “like a reader” only the most¬†egregious¬†mistakes are addressed (like a typo or bad formatting). ¬†No ‘changes due to content’ are made at this stage. The publisher’s proof reader is also working from this version
    • Sign off – The “official” version is provided with mine and the proof readers changes. At this point no more changes should be made. It’s just a matter of signing and being done.

And ¬†that’s it. ¬†I’m pretty saturated at this point and hope¬† to start writing in a day or two.