Tuesday, March 1, 2011

FAQ - Do You Outline?

Q: Do you make a detailed outline before you begin to write a novel?

A: I'm often asked this and up till now my answer as been "No, I send my editor a few pages indicating a bit about characters and plot -- what's the main problem, what are the conflicts, what are some high points, and what's the resolution."

But things have changed. The novel I want to write next isn't about Elizabeth Goodweather nor is it a spin-off like The Day of Small Things.  It's still in the mountains, still in mythical Marshall County.  But it's a whole new cast of characters and not really a mystery.

And since I'm not a best-selling author, getting a new contract isn't a foregone conclusion. It's not my editor's decision alone. The new novel basically has to be pitched to a group of people - including marketing -- who will be asking one question. And that question isn't Is this novel going to be a well-written book? 

No, the question is Will this book sell a lot of copies?   Because, like it or not, publishing is a business.
So I've been directed to write a really detailed proposal -- almost a chapter by chapter synopsis.  I make a start -- and I find I'm writing the book rather than a synopsis. Arrgh!

Which is why I'm giving the Snowflake Method a try.  Back in the fall, one of the students in my writing class told us about this way of working out a plot and I was intrigued. (I'm not going to try to paraphrase it here -- check the link if you're interested.)  Now I'm working through it, trying to come up with a dynamite proposal.


It takes time -- but I'm hopeful that the hours spent on this meticulous outline will save days when it comes to writing and I won't be up in my workroom in the wee hours of the morning, trying to figure out what should happen next.
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10 comments:

Martin H. said...

You recommended the Snowflake method to me, a while ago, Vicki. Although I haven't put it into practice yet, it's a method I think I could work with, for outlining a story.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm not familiar with the Snowflake method, so I'm off to read more about it. I am a wordy woman, so summarizing things are very hard for me. Often, my husband says when I start to tell a story, "is there a short version of this?" LOL
Sam

Brian Miller said...

intrigued...off to chase that link...

Suz said...

Brian, I'll meet you there
Snowflakes....lovely
sounding method
I am stuck in my writing and I am resisting outlining...but I guess
I will give in
thanks teach

Kaye Barley said...

GORGEOUS photos!!!

Vicki - I'm excited to hear about your thoughts for your new book. Good luck with it (I know I'LL love it!).

Margaret said...

Fascinating - and I will check out that link when I get time. The flowers caught my attention - stunning.

Kath said...

Thank you. I've never been an outliner, but I'm intrigued, and you make the case. So off to catch snowflakes on my brain.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Your flower photos are delicious -- barbara

Vicki Lane said...

I doubt I'll use this method all the way through but it's working well to organize my ideas and get started.

Darla said...

Gorgeous photos . . . such peaceful and loving energy emanating from the flowers.

And how exciting about your proposed new book!!!! Wishing you all the best for seeing it accepted and published!