A little over a week ago I wrote a post about outlining, and this morning I may have turned into a born-again outliner.
I’ve been planning and plotting a series I’ve decided to call The Archives. The stories won’t be written in chronological order, but rather which one speaks to me most when it comes time to work on one. This first one to get significant work is about a woman named Neora, and takes place about a quarter of the way through the ten thousand years of my overall story.
So after outlining Neora last week I went to work on another story - The Brotherhood. When walking our Bichon Frise (named Stitches, AKA The Dog Who Would Be King) this morning, I realized an entire half of my story is merely a lead-up to Neora. The real story arc belongs to another woman, named Amira. She’s part of the story from beginning to end.
If I hadn’t outlined, I might not have realized that for months. By that time I’d have a significant portion of a first draft, and have to dump most of it in the trash. (I’d really have saved it. I don’t think I delete anything I write.)
The beginning of the story has Amira and her husband watching a red dwarf star flare, killing hundreds and wiping out cropland in the “grain belt” of galactic civilization. Now that I’ve realized the story is really about Amira, I can build my story about what that flare means for HER instead of Neora.
Stephen King is a big proponent of seat-of-the-pants writing. “Put your main character in a difficult spot and discover through your writing how they deal with it.” But what if you get half-way through the story before you realize your main character isn’t who you though it was?
The King model may work well if your story is a one-off. If it’s part of a massive series, it’s hard to see that leading to success.
So scratch the novel of Neora. Welcome Amira to The Archives.