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.