If you’ve been around the literary community or even this blog for a time, I have no doubt in my mind that you’ve already heard about the different ways to get an outline done. If you’re among the few people whom have been living under a cave, then I advise that you read this before you start with this post. Of course, if you find that you’re too lazy, I’ll lend you a brief explanation.
In essence, outlining is a struggle between two opposing methods. There is a school of thought that says that an outline ought to be flexible in order for the author to have liberty in how he handles the story, and there are others whom say that an outline ought to be firm so that you can guarantee a reliable structure for your plot. Both of these methods have their merit. In this post, I’m not trying to indicate that one methods is better than the other, rather, I want to give you fellows a glimpse into how I am personally dealing with it.
I’ve mentioned before that I had problems with my past Writing Project, problems that I failed to acknowledge on more than one occasion. Suffice to stay, I’ve cast my hopes of finishing that pile of garbage out the window, and have moved on to greener pastures since then. As we speak, I’m in the process of outlining a cleaner, shorter work.
But I decided that before I rushed into the caffeine-addicted and anxiety-ridden endeavor of writing a novel, it would be wise to look over the horrendous techniques that led me to scrapping that previous book. Now, aside from the list of issues that I compiled in the third link within this post, there is one thing I didn’t expound upon. When it came to making my outlines, I was not as detailed as I should have been. You see, what I usually do when I’m planning a novel is to try to make a summary of every chapter within the tale, but feeling lazy, I skipped this step that time around.
What happened instead was that I tried to explain each chapter in a single sentence. Now, while this might work well if I’d been writing some cheesy teenage romance novel, this method was probably not ideal when it came to fitting into the scale of an Epic Fantasy that went just beyond 200,000 words of length.
Naturally, being the naive youth that I am, I told myself that my creativity would be able to fill in the gaps that I left out in the story. And in the early stages of writing, this proved to be true. I came up with interesting tidbits of world-building, characters I had no plans of introducing came out of nowhere, subplots sprouted to fill sections that would have otherwise been filler, and so on.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s sounds wonderful!” “That’s what the process of writing is all about–good job!” or for the small percentage of drug addicts whom read this “Yeeeaaah, maaaan. You gotta let those creative juices floooow, maaaan, like the ocean.” And to all of these comments, I must pay my gratitude. Yet there is a but.
A big but.
While imagination certainly is a wonderful thing, like all other wonderful things, there is such an issue as imaginary overdose.And, boy, this last novel was drowning in it. Concepts came out left and right, character backstories were introduced every few chapters, magic systems were revamped until they no longer made sense, Cthuludoid monstrosities showed up out of the blue only to never be explained again…I wasn’t joking about that last one.
If my ideas were all planes, they would have been hijacked by terrorists and sent crashing into the monotone dunes of the Saharan Desert. After a while, I threw out so many ideas without developing them, that I scarcely had the necessary creative fuel to keep me chugging on ahead to the end of the story. I was left so indifferent to the story I was weaving that I quit when I was halfway through the 3rd arc, and maybe a month or so away from finishing it. I wanted to move forward, but my mind was spent in every sense of the word. Combine that with the realization that I was just going to reboot the whole series that sequel belonged to, and you get the recipe for an abandoned novel.
Suffice to say, while the imagination should be given leeway to do as it pleases, that leeway should be monitored by a leash. Writing a novel is like driving. Creativity is the fuel that keeps you moving, but the last things you want to do is use it up in one huge go and run out of steam to finish the rest of the ride. There is a difference between losing the Muse on a specific day and just running out of passion for a project in its entirety. And this is an example of the latter.
For my future novels, I’m going to be careful and try to be more restrained with the chaotic powers of Poetic Licence that I have as an author. If there is a lesson to be learned from my experience, let it speak thus.
“Creativity without structure or development is only one step above insanity, but at least insanity can be entertaining.”
– The QuestingAuthor
As always, this has been the QuestingAuthor. Keep writing, my friends.