Okay, I’m facing my fear of the blank page, and writing. Sort of. Rather, I’m outlining. It’s a prelim to writing. You know, planning to write. Planning is great. No actual writing need happen, which is perfect if you’re me and scared that your actual writing will read like so much steamy crap on a summer day.
But that’s not what Mother Nature had in mind.
And, let’s face it … a writer is always on the clock, right? Observing … watching … thinking … It’s not like you can turn the writerly instincts off.
Not tension, that’s a whole different struggle. “Tense” refers to the linguistic time associated with the verb action in your story. Okay, you’re right, that sentence confused even me. So, let’s break it down by looking at the three most common tenses and how they are used. Click here. It won’t hurt. I’m not your English 101 prof.
Nothing draws a line in the sand of novel writing like the question, “To outline or not to outline.” Is there any kind of middle ground?
In fact, I think there is.
When I started my first novel, I wrote into the void, with no outline to guide me. It was exciting. Freeing. (From what, I don’t exactly know) But I felt like I was “creating” plot from the deepest levels of “not knowingness.”
By the time I’d rewritten the 3rd draft with no more idea where the story was going than when I’d set out along the path years earlier, I decided I’d better channel my inner Virgo and see what outlining could do for me. For my characters, actually; they were growing old before my eyes. (And that wasn’t even part of the plot.)
So I learned everything I could about outlining. Years went by. I took classes and workshops and read books and had long meaningful conversations with other writers about “outlining a plot as art.
I made convoluted complex road maps. I filled in detailed character analysis sheets. And in the end I ditched the complexity and pulled together a simple outline template from a variety of sources that I loved—a powerful “middle ground” tool that I used to direct my characters on their journey through their story. (I’m going to give you the entire outline to copy and paste and use, in just a second.)
As my good friend and YA author Janice Hardy is fond of reminding me, “Plot is a verb, not a noun.”
Many writers struggle with scene structure. But hey, we’re supposed to. If structure didn’t give us fits, what fun would writing be? But when it’s combined with terms like “sequel” (you can thank Jack Bickham for that one) many writers wonder why they are supposed to think about the next book when they haven’t even finished the first.