Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Outline?

For this little cozy mystery I'm writing, I decided to be good and make sure I got my main points in there, so I am outlining... oh, not super far ahead... just four chapters at this point (since I need to write three for this audition), but here is a true conversation from my writing time last night:

“Hey uh... Tart? Where'd the road go?”

“It's back there. Don't worry. I have a good sense of direction.”

“Don't you think we ought to stick closer. We might miss a plot point.”

“Naw. They make a lot of noise coming, so we'll have time to get back over there.”

“Come on; let's just nudge back.”

“Check it out! I knew there was a llama farm this way!”

You might be able to spot the challenge for a woman with Digression as religion. Outlining is a piece of CAKE. FOLLOWING an outline on the other hand...

That said, I am still having a blast. I've got a dead body, a detective, and a connection of the MC to the investigation, plus a key character who can't be found the next morning when they try to call witnesses... I wrote 8 pages last night and covered half of my plot points, so I guess I'm not doing as badly as I worried... 16-20 pages is about the chapter goal for first draft.

The way I figure it, I have a little detail to add in about the city, and about the theme of the series (gardens, flowers, plant life) but my writing runs long, and I've had better success writing long and cutting the unnecessary, so if I am about 20% longer than I want to be, that is actually perfect. Far easier to delete than fill in (other than the things I've marked that I KNOW I need to fill in, anyway).


Reading and Writing at the Same Time

I am reading a cozy right now to get oriented, 'Slay it with Flowers' by Kate Collins. I'm having a really hard time figuring out whether she is a totally superior being on a different plane than I am altogether, or whether when I finally get to the cleaned and polished stage, I will ALSO have that great of a book—it's a little intimidating...

And a new assessment. I say that, because I think had I read it a month ago, I would have thought, 'oh, what a cute book.' I never would have spotted all the things I'm spotting right now as the mastery of plotting, the five thousand ways to stick humor in there (yeah, seriously ME, I wouldn't have thought about how clever that was) It just would have been a cute story.

It's the opposite direction most of my assessments have gone since taking up writing seriously—most books I think, “well that was too obvious” or “why didn't they do this?” I've grown far more critical of plotting and writing and have read with a more... probably TECHNICAL eye for what is done well and poorly. Now I'm not to the end, so it's possible she'll snuff up the ending, but I am just thinking she has this system down pat, and I hope I can do so well (though I can't make myself write in the first person at this point... one new skill at a time. I've only written first person for a couple shorts, never a novel.

I think though, since this is my first time trying to write a cozy mystery, I am experiencing how hard that particular thing can be, and appreciating all the things she's doing well. My own stuff is typically more suspense, and I haven't read a suspense book since I really got going... so maybe that is the key.

Whatever the case, as much fun as I'm having, I am feeling humbled about the mastery required...

16 comments:

hope101 said...

My gaze keeps getting drawn downward, and downward, and downward... ;)

Anyway, I tagged you for a blog meme and award. ;) Details on today's post.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You know, I can't read cozies for pleasure when I'm writing. Makes me feel incredibly insecure--the book I'm reading is perfectly edited and won't be the mess that mine is in.

But I usually will pick up a copy at a bookstore and whip out the highlighter and pen and write all over them. That way I get the technical stuff I need, keep my emotional distance, and don't worry as much.

Yeah, Kate Collins is good. But you are, too!

Elizabeth

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I can’t do the outline thing either since my characters seem to have their own ideas for the direction a story should take. I think it’s good to be able to go with the flow and forget the outline. But the most important part is that you’re having a blast and that’s what writing is all about, in my opinion.

Watery Tart said...

Sister Tart--THANK YOU for the big fat liar award! *snort* I love it! MAN, I need to do some awards...

Elizabeth-I think I will probably take up your habit when I really get going, but I feel like right NOW I HAVE to because there is so much I don't know. Then I should have a few weeks though, to read BEFORE getting back to writing, and won't read while I write... (read in the edit phases). GREAT idea to use a highligher and pen (and lots of post it notes!) to do some analysis on them.

Watery Tart said...

Aha! Hello, Jane! We cross posted. I normally LOOSELY outline, but this is my first shot at a sort of strict genre, so I thought I should be prudent... yeah... prudent Tart... like that'll happen... Anyway, thank you for coming by!

TreeX said...

Lapdance

;)

Sugar said...

yay LLama's!

B. Miller said...

I love your internal debate with yourself about getting off the beaten path. I, too, have conversations with myself like that all the time. I don't usually bother with an outline because I feel like it kills part of my spontaneous creativity, but then again I'm not writing cozy mysteries, either. I do jot down notes about the next few chapters so I don't get TOO lost, though... guess that counts, huh?

Watery Tart said...

Joris: yes, please.

Sugar: (I am a secret llama)

B.: Normally I have about half dozen plot points planned and only do about 'a line a chapter' up to the next big one, but yea... learning a new genre... and it IS helping... when I remember to look at it!

TreeX said...

I meant the award, but yes, indeed, please... :)

Galen Kindley--Author said...

My next novel will feature an outline...I swear it will. But, I'm gonna cheat and not outline in the traditional sense, but with some cool--free--mind mapping software, Xmind. Hope it helps.

Oh, i noticed the reference to a theme in your post, so, yes, you DO know all about themes. You tried to say you didn't on my blog...but I knew you did. Ha!

Best Wishes, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Sugar said...

So..T.. what comes first..the outline or the story?

Watery Tart said...

Joris-I tried on those blasted things for 3 months but couldn't get any NOMINEES... silly people, so it has sort of fallen by the wayside... we need to come up with a new thing for the ACRONYM to mean, since that award thing is so cool...

Galen--the COZY has a theme--it's handed to the author, and what they want, but my other books have never had a conscious one, at least...

I couldn't use software, I don't think...The computer gets really touchy when I put it in the bathtub...

Watery Tart said...

Sugar--the CHARACTER comes first. ALWAYS. If I can't envision the characters in their nice rounded spledor, I got NOTHIN...

But the outline sort of works like a puzzle form to me... I have a bunch of separate things that all need to go together--the outline helps me keep straight the order--just with this new process, there are a lot MORE things to keep track of because of genre requirements, and the Cozy/collaboration thing...

TreeX said...

Backronym... Laziness And Productivity Do Always Nag in Creative Exposition

Can you see why I stick to images? ;)

jenny milchman said...

Laughing, laughing at the llamas. I'm sure there'll be a place for them in one of the gardens...

I can't wait to read this someday with a cheery pink and pretty cover just like that one! And I admire your branching out from suspense, or anything that feels most comfortable and intuitive. I bet your suspense will even benefit from it!