Almost Outlined: Working Past Mental Bottlenecking to Create a Killer Book Outline

Say your novel-to-be is about rock and roll—that much is clear—and you’re ready to outline. Or rather, ready or not, you need to outline. You sit down to your spreadsheet, blank Word doc, legal pad, or multicolored sticky notes, your head abuzz with story impressions: the thudding loudness and in-your-faceness of rock’s heyday; the rock modernists; some patchy character profiles; a main plot, three subplots, and fifteen mini plots; this idea you have to score some original rock tuneage and include it in the book—your music actually telling part of the story (not sure how—will figure out as you outline); this other idea you have to represent the dissent that frequently breaks up bands by telling your story not just in alternating narrative voices but alternating POVs; and . . . and . . . and . . .

By the time you’ve wrangled all your potential storytelling elements into focus, you’ll likely have not only scared yourself out of writing word one of your outline but also decided that you and three to four of your friends are the rightful heirs to Deep Purple and what the hell are you doing trying to make a book when you could be making music. And, hey, if that’s your route, go for it. The kids these day need good music.

deep_purple_1971
“Hush” is not a personal instruction. It doesn’t pertain to your writing. Outline on.

They also need good books. And if you intend to actually write, rather than think endlessly and vaguely about, one, you need to free yourself from the trap of trying to all-at-once decide how to handle characterization, plot, structure, POV, voice, style, and whether or not to include an original score.

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Meltdown vs. Bad-Day Writing

Expressing Characters’ Emotions on the Worst (and Second-Worst, and Third-Worst . . .) Day of Their Lives

It’s a widely accepted truth that if stage actors, viewed from lofty balcony seats and way-back stadium seating alike, are to adequately project emotion, there’s gotta be a little exaggeration. Sometimes a lot. While the acting may never reach the highs (er, lows?) of soap operas or, say, the early days of Bonanza (ten points to anyone who knows the specific scenery-chewing I mean here), it does have to be pointed and often quite physical for the content to be properly expressed in the given context.

A truth perhaps less widely known: with fiction, particularly the literary variety, it’s nearly the opposite. If you’re going to express your character’s emotions in a way that comes across as relatable and real, a little understatement can go a long way.

Continue reading “Meltdown vs. Bad-Day Writing”