Struggles in outlining

Outlining my story was a great idea! I can’t believe just how much easier it is for me to write with this crisp new outline in front of me! Well, maybe not. Outlining hasn’t gone too well. So far all I have to show for my troubles are several aborted attempts. A pantser I remain, for now.

My problem is that I don’t know how to outline. I’m trying to put too much detail into the outline, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen, other than a vague idea of where I want my story to go, and a few key scenes I would like to include. To make a comparison to real life, it’s like knowing where I want to drive to, where I’m starting, but only knowing the general direction I’ll take. Lubbock, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts? I’ll just drive north and east and I’ll get there eventually.

Actually, that sounds like fun, and potentially the makings of another epic “Amy Adventure,” but that’s a story for another time.

I know the ending to the series, though I haven’t sat down and written it down. I know what the problem is going to be in the first book, but not how to resolve it. I vaguely want the second book to focus on Lily’s relationships with everyone around her, and her adversary’s attempt to subvert those ties in order to weaken her. I know Lily will make an unlikely alliance in the third book to defeat her adversary, though it comes with a cost.

Lily’s relationship with her dead mother will come more into focus as Lily learns more about her and the reason for her apparent neglect and unfortunate demise. My character will have to grow up and live up to a destiny that many before her refused to take.

What I hope will work out is the nature of Lily’s enemy. That has me worried because it’s either the best idea ever written, or the worst. It excites me and terrifies me as the same time. I need to finish it before I’ll know for sure.

Writing is a scary endeavor. I’ve gotten used to posting my thoughts on this blog, so now I’m working towards a grander goal. I’ve been hoping to cross this one last goal line, though I’ve been putting it off. I think I’m about ready to put myself out there to be scrutinized, to have my books out to be criticized as either good or bad. As much as I wanted it, I wasn’t strong enough emotionally for it. I am now, I think.

I’ll get back to creating a general outline for Lily, and hope that it is detailed enough for me to work with, but flexible enough for me to create an organic and fluid narrative. I’m still a long ways away from finishing Book One, but in all honesty, I’m closer to being done than I would like.

 

This is the end, or is it a beginning?

I have no choice now. I have to give in to the inevitable. I should have seen this coming a long time ago, and maybe I did and I tried to delay it by walking away. Now I can see that I have to give in. I’m sorry, but this is the end of my way of life. I can barely stand the thought of it, and it’s breaking my heart to say it, but here goes nothing.

I think I may have to outline this story.

There it is. Mock me if you must, but my time as a pantser is all but over. No, don’t cry for me, at least not yet. All is not lost, but there are moments in life when one must confront one’s fears in order to mature and grow. This for me is one of those moments. It’s a little bittersweet.

I may be overreacting.

So here’s the deal. I’ve been working on this book that I call Lily, which is the name of my main character, imagine that. I want to write it as a series – probably a trilogy just so I can be like all the cool writers out there – so I’m having to do more planning than I’m used to. It’s not going all too well at the moment.

I can see some key scenes in my head, and I’m working on trying to weave them together into a cohesive narrative. I’ve written most of book one already, though there’s a lot I have to correct and clean up before I’m ready for anyone to take a look. For the rest, I have an ending in mind, key plot points I need to address, but when and how are the questions keeping me awake.

Maybe I’m not ready for this, but then if not now, when? I’ve talked this through with my confidant and I think this may work, at least if I frame it correctly, hence the need for an outline. I’ve never used one, but I think my story is becoming too complicated and convoluted to try to write this piecemeal, without a road map to guide me.

Since I’ve never done an outline, I have no idea how to do it. I guess I could do a little research into outlining, or maybe ask other writers how to create one, but I know I won’t. I’m writing my story, and I know what I need, so I guess any outline that I need to create must serve my needs and not try to live up to someone else’s definition of what an outline should be. Which now begs the question, why am I bringing this up?

But just for giggles, how many of you work from an outline? Anyone?

In the beginning….

I survived my Monday, how did you fare? Let me tell you a little of my day, starting with Sunday, weather-wise. Sunday, we had temperatures in the low 80′s. It was a nice and comfortable day. By the time I left the house for work on Monday, temperatures were in the high 20′s, a little over a fifty degree swing. Nothing like the schizophrenic nature of April weather!

Other than the light snow, the day was uneventful. I spent a considerable amount of time on the road thinking about opening lines. It started when I remembered one of Ron White’s jokes, “I was sitting on a bean bag chair, naked, eating Cheetos…” That has to be one of my favorite opening lines for a joke. You can check it out on YouTube.

The way Ron White delivers the line is magic. It’s as if it were normal for everyone to be sitting naked on a bean bag chair. It’s casual and easily sets up the ludicrous premise that is the rest of the joke. It’s all about setting up the tone.

Opening lines are a tricky beasts, if you ask me. There are plenty of famous opening lines in literature, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” – or – “Call me Ishmael,” – or how about – “It was a dark and stormy night.” Actually the last one is my favorite. It’s entered the collective consciousness as a bad opening line, which was in fact written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his novel Paul Clifford, though I mostly remember it used by Charles Schulz’s character, Snoopy. Actually, I need to add Paul Clifford to my list of Books I need to read, but probably never will.

The power of opening lines is not lost on men trying to score with women. That’s how we have classics such as “You come here often,” – and – “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” – and my favorite – “Haaave you met Ted?” I keep it simple when meeting people with “Hey.”

In real life, as in books, that first line can make or break your chance of continuing and growing a relationship. I know it’s a lot of pressure, and maybe I’m making too big a deal of it, but that first line is a killer for me. All I can do is write it and continue on. I may go back and tweak the line once I’m into the book, but probably not.

I was looking at some of my opening sentences of my pieces that I will someday actually sit down and finish. I’ve decided to let you take a look at the glory that is my madness.

  1. Paul Cardinal Dawson sat in his office drinking his black coffee, fuming silently. – Son of the Father.
  2. “Do me a favor Luke, and get me my lighter.” – Self Reborn.
  3. “Sheba! Time to go outside!” – Unseen Obsession.
  4. This was to be a reunion, years in the making. – Lily.
  5. I must say, I never thought I would ever write down my life’s story, and never in such a public forum, but yet I’ve decided to embrace this odd medium and so here I am. - Peccadilloes.

I don’t know, I’m probably stressing about nothing, but that’s what I do. I should probably let it go and stop worrying about something so inconsequential. It’s only one line, after all. But just to play Devil’s Advocate, here are a few more opening lines, from real life, to show you how important they can be.

  1. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
  2. “We need to talk.”
  3. “Joe, come to the office.”
  4. “You have the right to remain silent.” (Hasn’t happened to me, yet.)

In case you were wondering…

Today’s Agenda


  1. Finish painting pickup frame
  2. Take truckload of trash to the city container for City Clean-up Day
  3. Write, write, write!
  4. Hit around some golf balls in the backyard.
  5. Laundry.
  6. Maybe write some more.
  7. When in doubt, see number 6.

At least I did two of them. Yay me! Time for a nap.

 

 

Life balance

My grand plans for taking time to write took a back seat to going out to the driving range. I had fun, though I still had to do some work prior to having fun. My project to clean up a ’93 Chevy pick-up is taking up a lot of my time, though where we are at now, my brother is doing the bulk of the work. I’m no good with body work, and he is. It’s been a slow and tedious task, but I think the end result will be awesome.

More than the truck, we had to unload some housing materials from a trailer, which may not have taken too much time at around an hour and a half, but the 4×4′s and siding material we had to move were not light. At the end of the day, after doing some work on the truck, and moving materials around, I felt great. Physical labor is good for the soul, and as a reward, me and my brothers headed to the driving range to hit some golf balls.

First I should tell you about my golfing skills: I have none. My ex-wife’s father took me golfing a couple of times, as did her grandfather. I had fun, but that was almost nine years ago. Crap, I can’t believe it’s been that long. Wow! Considering her grandfather stopped golfing around four or five years ago, that’s how long it’s been since I’ve been out. To put it succinctly, I sucked. It was rather embarrassing, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t laugh. It’s okay if you do, I did.

I did manage a few impressive drives, but nothing spectacular. My longest was around 150 yds, which isn’t very impressive, but compared to the others which only went a few feet, then yeah, very impressive indeed. I may not be very good, but at least I went out there willing to look like a fool, and it was good exercise. I hope to go out again soon.

So once again I let life get in the way of some quality writing time, though I’m not complaining. I spent almost three years not living by hiding behind the keyboard as I mourned the state of my life. Even if things are not as great as I would like it to be, I can’t hide behind that fact, bemoaning that my the women who did me wrong so long ago are doing better than me, especially since I have no clue as to how they’re doing. They don’t even factor into the equation anymore, nor will they again.

That’s life, and I’m living it in my fashion. I haven’t given up writing, just putting it into perspective in respect to my life. If I could, I would love to make it my number one priority, but until it pays the bills it remains a hobby and a dream. I just have to remember how important this dream is so that I don’t lose sight of my goals.

I plan to stay up a little longer so that I can get some writing done. I have a few problems to figure out as to how I will resolve the story. It’s moving in the right direction and I mustn’t lose that focus. It’s all about balance between the two opposing forces in the story, just as it’s about balance between life as it is and life as I would like it to be.

To write is my dream and my passion, but not at the cost of having fun, nor should fun come at the cost of my writing. I’m trying to find my equilibrium again, and as I teeter back and forth trying to find that balance, I’ll occasionally miss the mark, but again that too is a part of life. It’s just the price of being alive.