Friday, August 22, 2008

That Plan's Just Crazy Enough to Work!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a hardcore outliner. This is partly just because I'm an anal retentive map reader and list maker and partly because my chosen genre requires so much advance planning.

How many times have you picked up a mystery with an awesome premise that starts out wicked awesome and then wanders around to some unsatisfying deus ex machina conclusion? Planning. Bringing a mystery to satisfying conclusion requires planning.

In fact, I usually start with the solution and work my way backwards. It just works for me. In this case, I started with the idea for setting and history. I guess I've read one too many novel set in Regency England and my pitiful brain snapped. Now my office is stuffed with books researching the period and I'm knee deep in my outline/rough draft. (Yes, both at once. More on that in a minute.)

First, I created my primary detective (who is not longer the primary detective) and constructed a cast around her by logically asking myself who belonged in her world. Then I gave them a murder and worked backwards to how it was discovered.

A funny thing happened on this trip. I gave her a best friend, bubble-headed scandle prone Lady Calandra as well as a brother, the quiet but confident Lord Arthur Alsbury, Viscount of Bellingfort and a mother and--well, the minor characters took over. It is now Calandra and Arthur's story. Hunh. Whaddya know. Calandra isn't a bubble-head at all and Arthur knows this. He's in love with her. Oh my.

Rough draft/outline. Yes, I do both at one time. What that means is that as I outline, I write whole scenes and snippets of scenes bridged by long bits of placeholder information such as {scene where Calandra discovers rumours have caused her to be snubbed at social event. Arthur consoles. She crashes event anyway. Much chaos ensues}.

My "outlines" often end up about 20,000 - 30,000 words. It's part outline and part rough draft, but it works for me and most importantly it makes my feeble brain happy. It's the only way I can see the entire structure of my book in front of me, complete with clues cleverly planted and character arcs. Adding history to the mix only complicates things because now I keep finding things I need to research.

I'm sure there is a twelve step program for outliners like me, except that I can stop anytime I want to and I'm not hurting anyone, I swear it.


Jen said...

I'm fond of saying (and incredibly good at forgetting it's okay to apply to myself, lol):

Whatever works is the way to do it. And it sounds like it's working for you in a big way. It sounds like a fun book to write, which I bet translates into a fun book to read, too.

April said...

Whatever works for you!

I'm going to blog about my own process later today. :)

Kim said...

I try to outline. Really. I do. It just doesn't seem to work for me.

Although, I did do a skeleton outline for one of my WIP and (knock wood) it's cooperating right now. We'll see if it continues to cooperate, though! =)