Outlining-How much is enough?

I’m very excited about being selected for the Novel Writing Course taught by Kij Johnson at  Kansas U, Lawrence this June ( http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/novel-workshop.htm ). I’ve never been to a workshop like this before and I have no idea what to expect. I do hope to learn a great deal about the mechanics of creating a good novel though and learning from my fellow participants. There seems to be a great mix of folks attending.

For the workshop, we need to have an outline for the novel and this has caused me some anxiety. I usually don’t create much of an outline when I begin a project. I jot down the big things I know that will happen, though.

I know the beginning, the end and a few major plot points in the novel and that’s about it. I have a few characters and then I start writing. I suppose you could call me a quasi-pantser. On the other hand, I guess you could call me a quasi-plotter… It all depends on your point of view.

I’ve queried the good folks at out Houston Science Fiction/Fantasy and Horror writers Meetup group just to see how people approach their writing, specifically dealing with outlines.

It’s a mixed bag. Some folks don’t plot at all. They start with a scene and just write. Others plot out their novels in painstaking detail, scene by scene and then fill in the scenes with action and dialogue, etc.

One friend of mine, Jason Kristopher ( http://thefireinourheads.com/my-books/ ), started doing a more detailed outline for his third book in his series The Dying of the Light and he’s a big fan of the process now. He tells me that it has increased his efficiency and productivity. It must really be working for him.

I just don’t know if I can outline on a fine scale. But, to be honest, I’ve never really given it a try.

I do enjoy having a general direction to go in while I’m writing and have the story unfold and characters becoming more than I originally intended. That’s a great feeling.

In my current work in progress, Enclave, a simple house keeper has actually become a major, important character. I had no idea Amelie Batherwilde was so incredible. She told me so.

I fear that if I outline to a fine level of detail, I’d miss that opportunity.

But, back to the workshop.

I need to have an outline for my novel and this is the major tool that will be used to help rework the novel. I suppose I need a detailed outline for the others in the workshop to analyze. My usual notes of a beginning, middle, and end, don’t seem to be up to the work required.

I don’t want to waste everyone’s time.

So I’m going to give it a try. I’m going to outline.

But how to start?

I have a stack of virtual notecards with scene/chapters described in one line, but this feels flat to me. I might use this to improve the outline, but I don’t think it’ll be the final product.

I’ve written a synopsis of what I think the novel will have, though. That’s another requirement.

My goal is to take that synopsis and broaden it, turn it into an outline, then see where I stand.

It’s exciting to try something new. But also scary. It might make for a better product though and I’m all for that.

How do you use outlines? I’d be very interested to know your process when beginning a new work.

ComicPalooza Houston TX!

I’m very pleased to be asked to lend a hand in the development of the literary track of ComicPalooza 2014.

I was involved last year and had a great time. This year I’ll be working on a few panels and workshops about writing. We have some great authors out there that will be coming to share their ideas about writing, the writing life and how to survive the process.

John Scalzi, the 2013 Hugo Award Winner for his novel Red Shirts, will be the guest of honor this year and we’re all very excited to hear what he has to share with us.

Mr. Scalzi is a wonderfully interesting speaker. I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 WorldCon and Mr. Scalzi was the moderator and host of the Hugo Award Ceremony. Funny and insightful!

Back to ComicPalooza and what I’ll be doing there. I’m reprising my panel on Good Writing Habits of Good Writers. It was very popular and we had a great panel of authors!

Then there’s the No Holds Barred Critique session. Writers submit about 2,000 words from their current work in progress, we read it out loud and a panel of writers offer opinions. Very fun and many writers received helpful and encouraging advice for their projects.

I’m going to be a panelist on where writers get their inspiration. This will be fun to talk about!

Today, though, I have a lot of work ahead of me.

I’m very honored to be a part of Kij Johnson’s Novel Writing Workshop held at Kansas University for the first 2 weeks in June. I need to work on my novel outline and polish up the first 30 pages or so of the manuscript. We have to submit our material in just a few short weeks!!!!!

I’m glad I have the weekend off. This rarely happens.

Hope you find the time to immerse yourself in your worlds today. Write with passion!

It’s a Writing Weekend!

After attending to a few work-related tasks this morning, I can finally get to my writing life. I have off the whole weekend!!!

I’m really psyched about my next project. I’ve been accepted to Kij Johnson’s Novel Writing Workshop at Kansas University this June. I’m nervous and excited! Even though I have one novel nearly complete and another about 30% done, I’m bringing a brand new project to the workshop.

This project really excites me. It’s strictly science fiction. My other works have been YA Fantasy and while I really do love that genre, Science Fiction is my passion. You might ask why I waited so long to start this new project? Well, to be honest, I didn’t think my writing skills were up to the task. I didn’t want to screw it up.

But after writing pretty regularly for the past 2+ years and have critique meeting twice a month, I feel that my skill level has improved. I’m willing to give this next project a try. It’s called “Going Green” and I’ll tell you about it soon.

So this weekend I need to really hammer out my novel outline. This is something I don’t normally do before writing a novel though.

Some authors write an outline of varying degrees of detail. When I start a project, I know the ending, a few turning points in the work, a few of the main characters and what I want them to achieve, and the end. It’s not very detailed and that has worked for me.

I let the work grow as I write, taking me on an adventure. I like it. I learn a great deal when I turn my characters loose and the story grows around them. I admit that there ends up being a lot of extra stuff in there that won’t make the final first draft, but it helps me to really immerse myself in my world and characters.

For this workshop I’m trying something new. I’m going to actually outline a more detailed draft of the novel. It’s a scary thing, but I’m sure the experience will help me grow as a writer.

Then I need to devote some time to ComicPalooza 2014 held in Houston Texas.


I’ll be on a few panels and workshops within the literary track again this year. It’s a great time and I love talking about writing with other writers. Hopefully I’ll be able to share something with them that will be helpful.

So, here I go! Back to my Writing Weekend!

A Day Off!

After working 2 hospitals daily for the past 15 days, I finally have a day off.

I actually slept in till 8! I felt so decadent. But now I’m trying to decide what to do with my day off. Of course, there are bills to pay, work-related paper work, etc, and tax prep, but I can’t get myself geared up for any of those. Not today. The Spring weather in Houston is wonderful and I’m thinking about treating myself to a jog in the park…. We’ll see how far I get.

As other have mentioned, jogging or walking helps the creative process. I contemplate my current works in progress as I go along, sometimes stopping to record a note on my phone.  I find this sort of activity very helpful when I’m frustrated, or lost in a particular scene or plot element. I even debate with my self, sometimes out loud, while I’m going along the jogging trail. I’m sure others around me think I’m an escaped patient from one of the psychiatric hospitals I work in.

But what I really want to do is write. I’m so very close to finishing my latest epic fantasy novel. I’ve been putting it off and working on other projects. I had to consider why I just didn’t go ahead and finish the one that’s closest to completion? There’s really only a few chapters to go. Why haven’t I finished it?

Fear perhaps?

Once it’s done, it’s done. Of course, I can always go back and change things. That’s what editing is for. But you only finish the first draft once. It’s like saying goodbye to a friend you shared a great adventure with and will never see again. I’m reluctant to say good bye.

Of course, It won’t really be good bye. I’ll be working on editing the manuscript. But that’s very different than creating it fresh, from the imagination. I enjoyed that process. Perhaps too much. I think I’ll need to edit out nearly 60K words.

More on editing in another post.

I also have to read and critique some projects given to me by other writers. I feel honored to do it and take this very seriously.

Then I want to read. It’s been ages since I had the opportunity to just sit down with a new book and get lost in it. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? They say writers need to read. I am in complete agreement. I read outside of my genre on occasion, to gain a different perspective on style, pacing, descriptions and structure.

I encourage you to take a chance and do the same every once in a while.

So much to do and so very little time to do it…. Does this sound familiar?

So here’s my plan for the day. Stop blogging, stop going on Twitter and Facebook, focus on my project that is closest to completion. Then maybe I’ll reward myself with a new book to read!

My current work in progress has a working title of Enclave. This is an epic fantasy adventure. I’m trying to decide if it is YA or not. I have a feeling it might be. I’ll post more about Enclave shortly.