Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Outlining develops novel idea

Outlining is recommended for a successful "big novel." (Albert Zuckerman, Writing the Block Buster Novel.) Outlining helps to organize the story so you can make it the very best it can be. It appears to me that a good outline makes the writing part SO much easier!

My DH has a tendency to say, "Writing is easy for you." To which I usually answer, "Yes, the writing is easy. The hard part is molding it into something an editor will want to buy." I'm thinking the outlining can make that hard part easier because:

1. I can develop characterization. Zuckerman writes that you can't just know your characters. You have to LOVE them. You have to know them through and through, their backhistory, their inner thoughts, why they do what they do, what can be expected of them, how they can surprise everyone. You need to know your characters thoroughly.

2. I can develop the plot and know where the story line is going. This allows me to write with the greatest freedom so I can fully develop the scenes I am writing and bring out the best and worst of my characters. I can see how that would create more tension in the story line and draw the reader more into the action of the plot.

3. I can tell a better, stronger story when I have a map to go by. That says it all. I want a strong story with strong characters. Even if it is far-fetched, I want it to be believable if not realistic. And I want my readers to think, "I have to watch for her next book." With a plan on the table in front of me, I can delve deeper into the interiors of my characters and write them stronger, better, more intensely.

I reread the chapter about the outline process last night. Today I will be rewriting my outline. My novel is about three women, three generations in a family whose lives are woven together into a tapestry. Not an unusual situation for a novel. But I can see from the first outline and from rereading Zuckerman's comments that I need more conflict. I need to clarify the principal characters and their conflicts. And I need to tie them together with more detail. I need to let my imagination run free as I brainstorm concepts for scenes that will let me do what Maureen advised long ago, "Just write a good story."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Onward and Upward

Writer friend Jay Hudson sent a book to me: Writing the Block Buster Novel by Albert Zuckerman, forward by Ken Follett (c)1994; published by Writer's Digest Books. He told me, "It's yours. Mark it up however much you want to." And I am!

When my advisor at school told me to make a list of reading resources I will be using for my senior thesis project I listed this book on Jay's recommendation. And now I've read most of it and I'm working by its recommendations. Zuckerman writes, "...there are authors who commence a novel without first working up an outline. Outlines, they say, cramp their creativity, inhibit their characters from roaming free and becoming interesting, and take the joy out of writing because this planning process denies them the possibility of making wonderful discoveries that come to them." And this spoke volumes to me.

Do you know how many novels I've started to write without an outline? An outline seemed to be an impossible accomplishment. But I have written to various points in each novel and came to the conclusion that I couldn't complete it because I had no idea where I was going with it. Whatever seeds I had started with, I lost sight of them. So this outline thing, I think there's something to it! And I am pleased about that because for my senior thesis I will be writing a novel!

Zuckerman uses Follett's novel, The Man From St. Petersburgh, as example of what he's talking about. Follett wrote NINE outlines before he began writing the story. Four of them are in this book. And while it seems to be a laborious process of reading, when I told myself, "Self, you want to write 'big novels' so just sit yourself down and read this because you need to know," I read it, and it wasn't nearly the mountain I had made it to be. I just read it straight through. And when I finished, I wrote the first draft of my outline, easily comparing it to Follett's first (and inadequate) outline. So, now I'm reading it again, and preparing to start working on the second draft of my outline because I want this to be everything it has the potential to be.

How many drafts of the outline will I do? However many it takes to plot out the story I want to tell. I will define the "high stakes" that a "big novel" needs to have. My main character(s) will be larger-than-life. I will have "a strong dramatic question," a "high concept," and "intense emotional involvement between several POV characters." Already this outline thing has narrowed down the plot to three short sentences that summarize the strong situation in this story.

Have you written your outline yet? Or maybe you just want to get your hands on a copy of Zuckerman's book to read, study, and learn some things that can help you.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Beginnings-2008

It's a new year. I started off in fine style. I got the flu shot in October. I shudder to think how ill I would have been yesterday if I hadn't had the flu shot. And I wonder how long it will take to cough up all of that yucky gunk from my lungs. Gross. Sorry.

I have SO many things to do, from cleaning and scrubbing down the house from top to bottom to all of the reading and writing I will be doing when classes resume Jan. 14 at Kent State University. I got my grades for fall semester. I was pleased. My advisor said the fall semester was the most difficult. But spring semester will find me taking 18 hours of classes which includes Writing Portfolio and an honors independent study class that will include all of my work for Family Recovery Center from Jan. 14 through May 4, three short stories taken from my novel (senior thesis), my poetry, articles for Bella Online's Senior Living site, and anything else that I have written during my return to college. Dr. Swartz wants the portfolio to be more on the creative writing side. So, that's what I will be doing.

My novel. I was going to do one of my romance novels. But I've since decided the one I want to finish for my senior thesis is Remembrance. This story is about three generations of women in a family. Nothing new about that slant, you say? Well, it's being written from my perspective and that gives it a different edge. The good thing about this is that I have someone to whom I have to be accountable as I work my way through the planning, plotting, writing and editing process. I'm trying to get a jump start over the winter break, but there are other items on my agenda, like spending time with the people I love and care about. I guess that means being better organized. I wonder, am I too flexible?

Novel or bust...I choose novel. And this time, I think I'm gonna make it.