Continuing our Q&A theme of the week, a reader asks:
What do you mean by outline? Personally, I find it much harder to plan everything beforehand and then write it in detail. Actually, my “book” was supposed to be a story, maybe two pages long, until I had many more ideas and started adding layers of action and drama upon my main character(s).
Basically, it’s a two-step process. First, I write a synopsis of the book. Usually this is about a thousand words or so, and it is very bare bones. Like, “Caina goes to the Golden Palace and does this” or “Ridmark and Mara talk about Vhaluusk”, that kind of thing. After that, I break the synopsis into chapters and flesh them out before starting the book.
I think this gets the hard part over with before writing the book – that way, you know where you are going, and you don’t have to worry about running out of steam halfway through the book, or running out of plot by Chapter 7. For me, at least, that’s the hard part.
Still, I’ve heard it said there are two types of writers – “planners” and “pantsers”. (I can’t remember where I heard this, otherwise I would attribute it.) Planners create an outline beforehand, while pantsers write by the “seat of their pants”, making it up as they go along. I personally think that planning out a book in advance makes a better book, but YMMV.
For me, though, I think outlining is necessary because of the nature of the books I write. GHOST EXILE is going to be nine books, and FROSTBORN fifteen, and a series that long requires at least some planning, lest I write myself into a corner.
I have a question. Have you ever thought about rewriting your very first book so that you can publish it? Or is it a momento of you’re first struggles as a writer?
No. The amount of effort to rewrite it would be at least the same amount of effort as writing a new book from scratch, and writing a new book from scratch seems like a better use of time.
So, you’ve been writing for yourself before 2005? Did you write many more books like Holy Symbol that are never supposed to see the light of day?
HOLY SYMBOL was the first book I ever finished. Before that I got about halfway through a few others, and I don’t think I’ll go back and finish them. Partly because writing new material would be a better use of time, and partly because I’ve cannibalized a bunch of my old half-finished stuff to produce my new books. Rachaelis Morulan in THE THIRD SOUL originally came from HOLY SYMBOL, and the plot of GHOST IN THE MAZE came from a novella and a short story I wrote but never got published.