Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Outlining

Here’s a post about outlining — or about deciding to outline. Because apparently Stephanie Burgis has decided to take a stab at outlining her next book before she writes it:

I’m ready to try something different with the latest rewrite of my new novel – but I realized: honestly, I had no idea where to start. How do people come up with book outlines ahead of time?

Good question! I have no idea. Deciding to outline a new book just to see how it works strikes me as an interesting exercise, but . . . and with all due respect to all Stephanie’s commenters who offered suggestions and links . . . but I am still frankly baffled by the whole idea of actually outlining ahead of time.

An opening image. A scene somewhere in the middle (possibly). A notion of where you want to arrive (probably). That’s it. I could no more outline my way from one point to the next than I could . . . what is a good analogy here . . . okay, than I could bring myself to write grimdark.

The one is impossible in practical terms. The other is impossible emotionally. Both are impossible.

On the other hand, now that I am past the halfway point with my current WIP, I DO have an outline for the back half of the book. The outline changes every day, though, as I suddenly decide to add another chapter in the middle / figure out a scene that’s coming up / realize that obviously event Y needs to happen after event X.

One odd thing this time around is: I seem to be hitting the cascade of action scenes that lead up to the climax. And I’m only on pg. 230. It seems a little early to be at this point. It seems to me there are just two possibilities here: A) Things are going to stretch out as I realize I have left stuff out. B) This is going to be a short book.

A short book! Maybe even under 100,000 words! Before I even start cutting!

That would certainly be different. Interestingly, the outline I now have? It doesn’t make it any easier to guess whether this book is actually going to run short. Sure, it kind of looks like I am closing in on the end. But, my basic rule for writing is: Everything takes longer. Everything.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to know whether Stephanie Burgis can in fact decide to outline a story and then actually go ahead and outline it.

Stephanie, of course, is one new-to-me author whose book I have on my Kindle right now. Surely I will get to it in 2014. If you, like me, haven’t read anything by her yet, then just by the way, I notice that she has a free Kat Incorrigible story up for Kindle right now.

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