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New Years
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Writing Non-Fiction
because I say so
Thursday, 6 March 2014
Outline to the Future

There are plenty of areas in life in which being premature is problematic or undesirable, to say the least.

I pause now to give you a moment to flesh out all of the double entendre possibilities whose doors I have just flung ajar. This break was brought to you by the Comedy Writing College of America.

On the flip side, I like to think that some of my premature actions might prove to be useful in the future: premature outlining.

There are writers I have met who are very careful planners. A couple of months back I wrote about a conversation I had with renowned Canadian lawyer-turned-mystery writer William Deverell about whether he had ever gotten part way through writing a novel or script and found that the story wasn't working to such an extent that he simply abandoned the story altogether and moved on to something else. I was, of course, hopeful he would answer in the affirmative, essentially giving me permission to do likewise, given how I was feeling about the book I was currently writing. He did not. Of course, I had had similar inclination when I had been writing Last Dance, a book that, at least according to reviewers, turned out all right, so I'm glad I didn't give in to the whim.

But Deverell's answer in itself was instructive: the reason that he had never abandoned a story part way through the writing was that he had done so much preparation in advance of actual writing that he had already identified potential plot problems and was thoroughly outlined as to know exactly where he was going by the time he initiated the prose production.

How utterly depressing.

Because, as I've no doubt mentioned before, planning, at least as it relates to writing, has traditionally not been my thing.

Which isn't to say that I don't do any. I do work from a rough outline, that in the case of W3.doc, includes index cards with individual scenes written on them, thus allowing me, the theory goes, to post the scenes on a bulletin board and move them around to suit the story. Hasn't worked so far.

And yet, I am already excited about Winston Patrick's next anticipated adventure in what I can only assume I am tentatively referring to as W4.doc. And in service of that story, I've begun to develop plot points, not quite concrete enough to be considered an outline per se but enough that I'm beginning to get an idea of where the story is headed. Certainly spending some time (weeks? months?) on developing a thorough, detailed outline of the next book would be a departure from my current much more organic process, as I'll charitably describe it. But given the struggles I've had getting past the middle literary hump both with Last Dance and W3.doc, it's an approach to which I'm giving serious consideration for the next project. I like to think if I can just get focused enough to really undertake some concrete planning, I might be able to maintain a better flow when it comes to the actual writing. It's as good a theory as any for now.

It 's also giving me pause about pushing through to the end of W3.doc. Considering the burst of creative energy that accompanied the coming of the new year has long since dissapated, I may take some time on our Costa Rican retreat to focus on planning and outlining the remainder of this book if it will help me to push to the finish line. I know, I know. I planned to be taking the first draft with me for its initial edit while lying in a seaside hammock.

The best laid plans....

Next week: The Deadly Lessons movie trailer.

ps. Some of you may have noticed that a gap in the weekly columns finally came, after more than 60 consecutive weeks. I guess that's an indication of just what kind of week it was. As a bonus - probably more for my psychological well being than an outcry from readers - I'm going to post a 'best of' column in a couple of days - probably a previously published piece that will help me tell myself I've got enough volume of columns to continue constitute calling it 'weekly'

Posted by davidrussellbc at 12:01 AM PST
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