Monday, February 07, 2005


It's Monday - and so far it's been hectic. I forgot my son had his sport's exam. I forgot my husband needed his car today. I had to rush to the highschool to drop off my son, then back to the village to take my daughter to her school. This afternoon I have to do everything backwards - and I now have an official deadline to meet. I can already hear it whooshing by.
Luckily I am a fast writer. I'm an outliner and a plotter, so I don't usually get caught in too tight a bind. My characters tend to take over, but I try to stay within the framework of the plot. It's easy. I used to be a 'pantser', and I wrote two books like that. They took me forever to write, and I swore I'd never do it again. Every book since has been written After I plot it out and do the dreaded outline. The dreaded outline is a chapter by chapter synopsis of the book. It is usually bare bones for me - a skimpy framework I can bend, twist, and change as I flesh it out. But just having the book as an outline is an immense help for an author. I know everyone says 'Everyone writes differently'. But there are easier ways to do things...and an outline is one of them.
For example - here is the outline of a book I sent to a publisher not long ago.

Sadie’s Island
By Jennifer Macaire

Chapter One: Introduction to the narrator’s family and St. Thomas. The narrator tells about her family, then explains about the horrendous scar that divides her face in two and keeps her from being beautiful. She explains how she’s in love with Brett, and tells a little about her best friend, Andrea. The chapter ends when the narrator tells of rescuing two children from the strong undertow at the beach, her trip to the hospital, and how glad she is to be home afterwards.

Chapter Two: The school year starts, and our narrator tells about her sister, Sadie, and more about Brett and her friend, Andrea. Our narrator’s first period arrives, and disaster strikes with the cheerleader try-outs. There is the story about the tarantulas, the drive-in movie at the cow pasture, and the new next-door neighbors, who turn out to be Brett and his family. Brett breaks his arm and finds out his has leukaemia. Our narrator loses her virginity with him, and they make a pact to write each other when he goes to the states to the hospital. The narrator goes to the plastic surgeon and gets her face repaired. She hears Brett is not doing well in the hospital.

Chapter Three: The story of the Carnival Queen. Sadie’s letter to Brett.

Chapter Four: Carnival time in St. Thomas. The witch of the mangroves visits the village, and our narrator meets her. She learns that Brett is dead after seeing a vision of him. Sadie is accepted to Harvard, and the family’s focus shifts away from the narrator and her terrible grief. But Sadie guesses what happens, and goes to comfort her sister.

This outline is pretty detailed - I wrote it after I wrote a quick synopsis - idea of the plot. It was taken from a short story I wrote, so the characters had already been somewhat developed. When I sent the outline to the publisher, it was even more complete, with excerpts from each chapter and a complete synopsis of the story. (Including the ending - always include the ending with your synopsis and outline when you send it to the publisher or an agent!)

Well, back to work!


Wynn Bexton said...

Hi, thanks for commenting on my blog. I also have an outline, more-or-less chapter by chapter for my w.i.p.
I also have a historical time-line for this last part of the book which is helping immensely in mapping out the political conniving that went on between Alexander's Successors, which is all crucial to the finale. Just now writing in bits and pieces to tie in some scenes I'd already written. Kind of like putting in the missing pieces of a puzzle. I don't usually work exactly like this but because so much of what i've written has been spontaneously written and not necessarily in order of events, this is what i have to do now to link it all together. Best wishes, wynn

Stacey said...

Did you find that knowing the end of the book made it harder to write? That's always my trouble with outlining first. When I write by the seat of my pants (a pantser! LOL), I don't always know where I'm going to end up, except in a very vague sort of way (heroine survives, final scene is in a desert). I love that. It's fun because it's like being a reader. But I also know that because of the way I write I spend many frustrating months rewriting and revising. I'd LOVE to be able to avoid that.

However, I think if I knew how the book ended, I'm not sure I'd want to write it. Kind of like reading the last page of a book first.

Was this a difficulty for you in transitioning from being a "pantser" to an outliner? If so, how did you get past it?