Three Dirty Birds and the End of Outlinig Your Novel

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And here we are at the end of K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

Zoe: This chapter opens with a quote from Jeffery Deever: “The outline is 95 percent of the book. Then I sit down and write, and that’s the easy part.” This is not my experience. The difficulty of writing feels the same whether I know where I’m going or not.

Ana: Oh, good to know I’m not the only one. Even when I know what I have to write my brain is all, “Do we have to do this? Really? We could be lazing around and eating chocolate instead.”

Zoe: Yes! This is my experience of writing.

Kate: She annoyed me in this chapter. “You don’t have to panic with the thought that you have NO idea what to write. All you have to do is open your outline file and find the next turn on your map.” I really don’t think she knows what pantsers do.

Zoe: You mean pantsers aren’t brainless zombies walking around going, “Stooorrrry”?

Kate: Only after Friday night binges… Chocolate, you dirty birds!

Zoe: We were totally thinking chocolate.

Kate: Oh, look, another time she irritated my last nerve: “ Freedom is knowing you never have to stare down the blinking cursor and the blank page because you don’t know what comes next.”  Dear God, I need a drink. And chocolate. And a cabana boy to rub my fevered brow.

Ana: I don’t have a cabana boy on hand, but how about some chocolate milk?

Kate: I’ll take it!

Zoe: I just need to get Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee” out of my head after all that “freedom” stuff. (Although I’ll take Janis over this book…)

Ana: I don’t think I know that song.

Kate: Thanks for the earworm, Zoe.

Zoe: Anytime! We can sing it together (except Ana, poor Ana). “Freedom’s just another word for never having to stare at the blinking cursor…”

Kate: Poor Janis. 🙁

Ana: Even when I know exactly what’s going to happen I still end up staring at the blinking cursor, because knowing the story doesn’t always mean the words are easy to find or readily available. There’s a lot more to writing than just knowing what’s going to happen.

Zoe: Exactly.

Kate: Seriously. My big block is figuring out what words I need to use to get what’s in my head onto the page.

Zoe: Yes. The day I have an outline that has All the Words in it is the day the writing itself will be easier. (This is why I find the editing/revising the easiest part. The stuff is there; I just have to make it better.)

Kate: Just re-skimming the chapter and she’s pushed my red button again. “The outline is the tool of the responsible author…” I can’t even…

Zoe: Kate, you irresponsible writer!

Kate: *hangs head in shame*

Zoe: Someone needs to write a book on outlining that does not reference pantsers at all. I mean—why would you even have to? Talk to your audience. If it’s an audience reading a book on outlining, they’ve apparently bought into the outlining idea enough to spend money on the book.

Kate: She keeps talking about how she saves time by outlining, but I’m not sure I know where she’s saving it. If she’s spending months on the outline, then months on the story, where’s the time saving?

Zoe: I’m still at a loss as to how someone spends months outlining. I can see it maybe for a super complex book—multiple narratives, world-wide story, that sort of thing—but for your average novel…months?

Kate: I wonder if she has a dayjob that she hasn’t mentioned, or if I missed the reference to it.

Zoe: I have a day job and it doesn’t take me months to outline. I might spend months daydreaming about the characters, but once I start getting an actual story together, it’s a week or two—three tops—and then I don’t have anything left to outline. (Also, I don’t count the months I spend daydreaming about the characters because all they’re doing is having sex with each other, and that doesn’t even happen in the books.)

Ana: That’s only because you don’t fill in extensive questionnaires on all your characters and their pets. (Oh, I know that ‘problem.’ Let’s just say they’re furthering their relationships)

Kate: Maybe that’s why I can’t get mine to have sex on the page. It’s all happening in my head and they’re tired.

Zoe: If you can’t slash your own fictional characters, you can’t slash anything.

Ana: I can slash EVERYTHING. I’ve slashed clocks once, based on their ticking habits.

Kate: I haz no wurdz…

Zoe: We could slash knives and call it “the one true paring.”

Ana: While that is a fantastic idea, there are so many true pairings in my head.

Kate: That could go on forever.

Ana: Welcome to my life.

Zoe: Ana’s imagination is like my sock drawer. After laundry day, everyone gets a new pairing. (And all my socks snuggle together!) But anyway. This was a two-page chapter that managed to piss Kate off an unreal number of times in just those two pages.

Kate: I can’t say I would recommend this book to pantsers. I’m not sure I would recommend it at all.

Zoe: I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone looking for guidance on outlining. It strays too far from the title’s explicit promise.

Ana: I might recommend it. But not to people I like.

Zoe: Ha.

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