Thursday, July 15, 2010

Research, Timelines and Outlines, Oh My!

Lots of real life stuff happening right now, and it'll pick up again in a little while. For now, I have some leeway so I might as well use the time to my advantage.

Yesterday, in a flash, I figured out a system to organize all books in the series. It's simple, really. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. All I'm going to do is organize the events and the plot lines according to the overall geography of North America. I'm not going into specifics, that would be giving away too much but I do hope I wasn't too vague, either.

So, at this point I've cetainly done enough research, to a point I might be overdoing it. That's the thing about research and why some authors might be quite adverse to it. It can be easy to get bogged down by the minutae, all those tiny details. For me, it's very  important to keep my imagination in check and recognize where to draw the line.

After all, the whole point is to write fiction and enjoy full creative expression.

My next step is to make charts for myself to organize a timeline. I'm not sure if these timelines will be overly detailed for every single book, or if I'm going to just concentrate on one book at time. The latter would be easier and involve less pressure, but on the other hand, I tend to do my best work under pressure. So I guess I'll just have to play this by ear.

Part of working on a timeline, would be also developing an outline. Some authors argue they'd rather fly by the seat of their pants than write an outline. I couldn't disagree more. The ability to write outlines is a sign of professionalism. If you want to write nothing but unprofessional commecial fiction that would probably never get published, that's your choice. But I'm a believer of professionalism above all else.

I have seen some confusion about outlines. First, with creative writing absolutely nothing is written in stone. Outlines can be changed and rewritten. Stories often change and go in an unexpected direction, so outlines will need to be changed. For the manuscript I currently have in circulation, I tweaked and rewrote some aspects of my original outline 3 times. I'm quite content with that. Whatever I need to do to make the story in my head a reality, I'm more than willing, and this includes outlines.

Personally, I don't know of any writer who was able to complete a full story without some kind of outline. The whole flying by the seat of your pants is a bit of a myth. No human being on the face of the planet has that level of genius. Seriously, they would have to have IQ's that were off the charts. It just doesn't happen. So when I hear of a writer claiming to write "by the seat of their pants" I'm very suspicious of whether they are being honest.

Bear in mind I am referring to novel writing, which means a completed story of at least 50, 000 words. (And in the case of a series of novels, we're talking thousands and thousands of words). For short stories and poems, I can certainly see the benefit of not writing an outline and just enjoy free creativity. But for organizing a whole freaking novel, geez, how could I not use an outline?

So, my next step is pretty clear now. Time to work on outlines, stop lazing about and write the damn prologue already. *nods*

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