If you’re a more or less regular reader of this blog, by now you’ve probably come to expect an exciting (or not so exciting) chapter of the rough draft of Thin Spots, my novel-in-progress, each Friday. But this Friday is different.
Tweaking showed me how badly I needed to return to the outline.
On May 9th, when I wrote the post “To Tweak or not to Tweak?” I was trying to work out the answer by writing about it. In the end, I decided to tweak and I made a valuable discovery: the sub-plot wasn’t working.
The sub-plot is all about Tanya, the waitress/shaman, who travels through the astral plane, or “metaverse” to help out our hero Colin and various other folks, like Doc the pizza guy. She’s fun and lovely, but I found myself asking why she was there. She started to feel like breadcrumbs in a meatloaf—contributing bulk, but not much else. So, as an experiment, I decided to axe all her scenes from the outline.
Axing Tanya’s scenes left me with a fairly streamlined story, but I lost the element of Colin’s body being in one place and his soul being in another. I also lost Colin’s love interest.
What to do?
Enter sub-plot 3.0 (1.0 was Colin’s evil wife, whom you never saw, and 2.0 was Tanya). I am not going to share it with you at the moment because I must go back to the drawing board and…
That’s “outline” with a capital “O” and on its very own line because it looks like I’ve got to be a lot more thorough this time around. In my eagerness to get to the writing part, I plugged in the first likely subplot and got moving, eventually winding up with story-bloat.
Lately I’ve read a couple of things about people who outline like crazy. James Patterson, for example, says he does a twenty- to thirty-page outline for every novel. Whether or not you like Mr. Patterson’s work, you’ve got to admit he does produce novels and they do well. Also of late, I’ve begun to have that swamped feeling I’ve gotten when trying this novel thing before, like the whole thing was sliding out from underneath me. So, rather than repeating my past mistakes and trying to move forward with an inadequate outline or no outline at all, I’m going to stop writing for a while—maybe all summer—and nail down a detailed roadmap.
More than anything, this blog is a document of the learning experience, and I sure learned something this go-round. I’ll be off to that drawing board now and never fear—I’ll keep this space stocked with writing-related ravings as I go.