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Some of our finest times together.
So a lot of writers outline their books in advance. My agent told me I am one of just a few of his writers who doesn't outline. My main problem with doing it is that I seriously have no clue what's going to happen in my book when I sit down and write it. (And I don't know if I would want to, because that wouldn't be as much fun for me.) I've got a few touchstones here and there along the way that I know that I want to hit, and by the end of the book I can put together a short list of points I want to hit. But for the most part, I'm just making it up as I go along.
But at some point in the process of each book I've written, an outline has been compiled. For Instant Love it had already been sold and I was already in the editing process with Sally, my amazing editor over at Shaye Areheart. I just needed to track the order and make sure all of the characters were being linked as well as they could be. It was really more of a backup plan at that point, the book was so far along.
For The Kept Man I believe I created one starting about halfway through, and it was more like this massive spreadsheet so I could see which characters had appeared in which scenes. It was the first time I had to keep that many ideas and characters in my head, let alone all the plot points. I'm sure I'm not the first person who has compared it to a chess match; you have to be able to think ten moves ahead, etc. (I was never very good at chess, by the way. I'm too easily distracted.) By the end of the book I wasn't using it at all.
And now for this latest book I did not bother to outline once, except I think at a few points near the end I made a few short lists of things I wanted to have happen in the grand finale so I didn't forget them. But this weekend I sat down and made a massive outline of everything that happened in the book as well as the page count.
Four things happened because I did this.
First, I made the decision to merge two different sets of chapters because I could see how repetitive they were. I could see it right before me on the page. Shit needs to get cut.
Secondly, I decided I wanted to even out the page count of each chapter. How satisfying is it to read a book where each chapter is similar in length? So when you're reading it on the subway you know exactly how many stops until you're going to finish the chapter. You may think I'm crazy for thinking this way, but I am all about making books that I will enjoy, and that seems to me like something I would enjoy. And each chapter should end suspensefully, which hopefully I've already done. I want to make the reading experience extremely satisfying and exciting.
Third of all, after noticing that parts one and three are both 100 pages, and part two is nearly 150, I decided to pull a few scenes from part two and spread them around. I don't like the idea of a top-heavy part two at all. I know I'm being all OCD about it, but I don't enjoy books that get bogged down in the middle. It's like going out for a nice meal and having a super heavy entree so by the time you get to dessert you're like, "I simply CAN'T." Boo on that. Who doesn't love dessert?
And finally, this post-writing outline made me happy and proud, which really has invigorated me to keep on working. It's an exciting thing to see all your ideas laid out on one big page. Right now it's hard to picture everything because it's all wrapped up in 340-something pages. It had felt a little inaccessible to me recently. But now I'm feeling familiar again with this world. I'm starting to live with the book again, which is where you need to be if you want to bring it on home.
I'm sure this is interesting to all of three people reading this, but this site is just as much about documenting the writing process as it is my life. Because let's face it - and I feel comfortable saying this a few days before I turn 36 years old - my writing process is my life. Everything I do and see is a part of the stories I tell.