With the beginning of the new year, a lot of people talk about changes. New Year’s resolutions. Changing behaviors, styles, habits. I mentioned last time I don’t make resolutions simply because if you want to do or not to do something then start immediately.
Change is good. I’ve learned that in the past couple of days with…drum roll please…the new website. Please stop by-often-to www.stephenbrayton.com. It only recently went live and for a couple of days I’ve been changing things left and right. I didn’t like the original background so I changed it, then changed it again, took a break and changed it again. I changed the order of pages. I removed some guide bars…and will probably put some back in later. I know, where are the pictures? Those are coming later. Yes, I have another book cover to put up, but I’m waiting on permissions to use some pictures.
The point is, I’m having fun changing things. I think that works well not only in your own lifestyle or when working on a website but when you’re writing your stories. Change is good. One of the questions I am asked a lot and love to discuss with other writers is the question of outlines. There are many opinions about outlines and whatever works for you is great. If it doesn’t work for you…well, change it.
For me, I do like to outline. In a general sense. I like to envision the story from beginning to end, write down an order of scenes and come to a logical conclusion. Once I complete my outline I may almost immediately start changing it. I may add scenes or change the order of scenes.
I remember while writing Beta I discovered a problem with time. When doing research in the Quad Cities I found that the itinerary I had set up for Mallory and her detective partner would be completed by noon, leaving the rest of the day with nothing to do. So I had to change some of the scenes, add a scene or two to make sure that she spent most of the day hopping from place to place thereby getting her to the evening when the next scene in the outline had to take place.
When I worked for a radio station’s sales team I owned a daybook for all of my appointments with customers. If the book ever was misplaced, I was almost frantic because I couldn’t function without it. After I left that job I vowed never again would I be in that kind of position where I was controlled in that way. The same principle holds for outlines. I create one, but I’m not bound by it. I don’t always control the story. When I’m writing part of my mind thinks ahead and throws some scene or action to the forefront so I can remember it for later. I’ll find a character doing something outside the outline because it works. Many authors have told me their characters will move in a different direction than originally intended. Sometimes I wonder about those authors who say their characters talk to them…but that’s another matter altogether.
There are those authors who don’t outline at all, just pick up a pen and start. I have no problem with that as long as it works and you know where you are going, what you want to accomplish and you have a sense of when you want to stop. How much of the life story of the protagonist to you want to tell. If that person dies, sure that’s pretty much the end unless you’re telling a ghost story, but when do you want to end the story. In the no outline scenario, change will inevitably be a factor, especially on the editing.
Right now I’m stalled in Chapter 5 of the Alpha rewrite because of the timeline and what I want out of the next scene. I have to be faithful to the character and her profession and her martial artist nature to get her to the next scene without complications. I think by imagining different actions I’ve come up with something that will work. I’ll try it and if it doesn’t…
My suggestion is to try an outline (for your story your day, your week) have a goal in mind and begin. Then if something comes up that you need to change…don’t be discouraged. There are some days I don’t what I’m going to do but I just go ahead and do it. I’ve dreamt of several scenarios for different meetings with people or situations in my life and the reality never matches any imaginings. Whoo-don’t get me started there.