First lines and deadlines, part 2.

I found my first lines. With them came my first few pages. Everything seems to be full steam ahead, outlines be damned.

What’s really interesting about this project is that, with writing everything anew, I have a chance to write it the way I originally envisioned it. When it first began, it was a novel about the connections between a group of otherwise not-connected people. It passed from character to character seamlessly, bringing everything together by the story’s end. Similar in device to the movie Crash, just without the pointless melodrama and over-the-top racism. (For the record, I like the film. It’s on my shelf. But it is slightly ridiculous when it comes to those two things. And probably a few others.)

skeletonAs I began to flesh out the story, it lost that particular quality. Each time I began it, I planned and plotted every minute detail, thinking that this would help me to write the book more quickly. If I had the skeleton, it would only be a matter of adding the veins, the muscle, the necessary organs and the skin . . . though not necessarily in that order. For this particular story, I have already written two separate, complete outlines. For this particular project, both have been discarded.

I have been to several writing seminars with authors from a wide variety of genres. From science-fiction and fantasy to comic books and even nonfiction, I have listened to the tips and tools of the trade straight from the mouths of the people who live it. And most of them say that writers should work from an outline. Of course, they give numerous reasons why it’s a good idea, and for the most part, I agree with those reasons. Writing from an outline does give you a clear goal of where you are heading. It also helps maintain an appropriate manuscript length and time frame for completion. However, in my experience,  writing with an outline does something else as well.

It makes the whole damn experience a lot less fun. And if I’m not going to have fun while I write, what’s the point of writing?

Don’t get me wrong. I like having an idea of where the story is heading. Even now, I still jot down notes about things I want to happen in later chapters. But a few notes here and there is a completely different beast than a chapter-by-chapter outline.

It began several months ago when I was working on a different idea. I had an outline for this one, too—a fantasy novel series that I ended up shelving temporarily because I discovered the whole thing was pretty much Star Wars in a different genre and setting. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, I wrote two chapters for it outright—no outline, no grand overarching plan for the story. I just wanted to see what I could do with it. As I got more into it and really started to develop a strong affection for the characters, I decided to go ahead and go novel-length with it. I plotted out an outline for the first book’s story. As I started writing the next chapters—this time guided by an outline—I just wasn’t as enthusiastic. I felt like I was traveling on a paved concrete trail, whereas before I was the one cutting the path as I went. Sure, an outline is supposed to make things easier . . . but if I don’t care to finish the story, why should it matter how easy it is to finish?

I’m done with outlines for now. And, to be honest, I feel unbelievably liberated.

I’ve stalled enough for now. Back to the manuscript I go.


About [rlh]

Ryan L. Haddock is an aspiring writer, emphasis on the "aspiring." He mostly writes short stories, but that is only because he doesn't seem to have the attention span necessary to write a novel. At least, not yet. He is also a husband and a father . . . yet he is still struggling valiantly against the notion that he has to grow up. View all posts by [rlh]

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