• Mark Meier

Outline? Outline!


I watched a video this morning of Stephen King saying something like this: “Outlines are the hallmark of a bad writer.” That’s not the first time he’s said something I disagree with.

To be sure, I’ve always been a panster - someone who writes by the seat of his pants. I hate outlining, but The Archives pretty much demands it be done. There’s too much going on across thousands of years to keep it all straight in my head. So I need reference points, and a structure for the story to follow.

I just finished up my first raw outline of Neora. Last week I wrote out the first half’s outline, today I finished the second half. And I have to keep in mind this is a RAW outline. (Some assembly required.)

What I’d had in my head going into this project has changed considerably. Probably the biggest change is it’s now more concrete. Instead of simply talking about it, which I’ve done all year (and more), I’m actually moving forward.

With The Brotherhood getting closer to a finished product I find I have more time to devote to roughing out Neora. There’s only so much editing I can do at a time before I get bored and need something more . . . thrilling. Unlike some, I’d rather be composing than picking apart something I’ve already written.

Don’t get me wrong, self-editing is an important part of the process, but actual writing is far more interesting: “Streamers of fire blossomed across the red dwarf star, exploding across the close-in habitats and broiling the crops growing within.” Then comes the nitpicking of which exact word to use: “Broiling or baking? Blasting or exploding? OH! Shatter would be good. Can I rephrase to use that? Oh, no, I used ‘across’ twice. One of those needs to be changed.” I can only take so much of that before I need to put down something new.

It’s odd, really, finding myself outlining. Characters have surprised me so often that it seems like I’m suppressing characterization to get their actions down before I can fully explore what Neora is like.

She’s an idealist, to be sure. Hardworking, honest, hates duplicity and backstabbing. Not a fan of her father, who is mostly a good man, but those who serve him are sycophants and ruthless in their desire to ingratiate themselves to him. She doesn’t like them at all.

The outline doesn’t contain any of her flaws as a person, though. At least I’ll get to discover that as I go along. Part of expanding my existing outline will explore those issues. She’ll definitely be burning bridges as she leaves her father behind. Crossing the border from his kingdom in support of another will spark wars.

That’s for the future, though. The story titled Neora will be over before those wars come to fruition. Perhaps Daddy’s sycophants will be in charge when the war starts.

Hmmm. I hope I remember that when it’s time to do that outline.



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