I’m sharing my outlining process this week, thanks to just having finished outlining THE RULE, (sequel to AMERICAN DEMON, out in 2020) and a curious reader. Friday I gave you my bare bones of how I start with a list of “I wants” to do a very rough plot plan of two or three threads, as well as figure out which characters will be the most useful in reaching my goals. It takes a day for me to do this if I’m working in the Hollows. If it’s a new world, it can take a week, or even two if I’m developing all new characters, magic systems, and mythologies/species.
Below is the beginning of step two of my process. It’s a reposting of several years ago when I was working on book ten or so, but not much has changed.
Friday was the second day of my plotting out of the next Hollows book, and still no words on the screen, but I’ve plenty of notes, so all you people taking part in NaNoWriMo, be assured that you are way ahead of me. At this rate, I will be hard pressed to meet your 175 page count by the end of the month. And I still have a few days of plotting before I can begin. So what am I spending my time on?
Well . . . I took my six pages of notes from Thursday and wrote up a free-flowing, one-sentence brainstorming list of “ways to start” and a list of “ways to end.” I still don’t have a good way to start the book, and I won’t until I have the end, but my goal is to have in the first five pages the hint of the problem that is settled in the last so to make a full circle. I’m more successful at this some times than others, but if you break the stories apart, it’s there. By the way, I found the ending by the time I turned my office light off. Damn. This is going to be a fun one to write. As usual, Tim helped with finding the kicker.
I then wrote out a handwritten, ten-page summary of the book, starting at the beginning and going all the way to the end, saying who died, who got jailed, and who got pregnant. No, none of those things happened, but you get the idea. Some might say it’s a waste of time, but I just saved myself three to six weeks of grief as I realized that my original three plots of demons, love, and crime were taking up too much page count and there were too many characters. My solution? Get rid of the demon story line for this book, much as I love it. (It will show up in the next book where it belongs)
After some thought, I realized that the story would work that much better with some new limitations that no-demons engenders. Now I can expand on the other two story lines and bring in some secondary characters that I’d have had to skimp on. I’m going to miss Al, but let’s hope it’s absence makes the heart grow fonder rather than out of sight, out of mind. . . Today, I’ll rewrite my 10 page summary and maybe start on some more detailed chapter outlines to be sure I’ve not forgotten some bit of logic and to nail down the character lineup.