outline progress: excellent!

today was a very productive day, all the way around. after our morning hill-walk with the pooch, i was able to devote a couple solid hours to the outline, followed by some tree-limbing (me) and garden-starting (my wife) in the glorious sunshine, then lunch and some more writing in the afternoon. what a difference a good night’s sleep makes.

anyway, the outline for Hell Hath No Fury, like i mentioned last week, has been coming along, but this afternoon i made it to the end of the story. it’s by no means finished (not even close), but the major structure is there, along with most of the subplots and the key scenes. there are still a number of things under serious consideration, and the structure is likely to change a bit, but i feel pretty good about the current organization.

i expected a good morning’s work, especially after not waking up until nearly 7 am (practically unheard of in our house), but i hit a bit of a snag at the end, having followed the story to the mid-way point, as i understood it.up to that point, the notes and outline had come along fairly well, with some good sideline considerations that are revealing more and more of Kelly’s universe. i even found myself caught by surprise at a couple of scenes; i wasn’t prepared for some of the darkness she gets involved in, but it made perfect sense. i’m very much looking forward to seeing how these individual scenes play out.

then i hit a wall. it wasn’t a dead end, as it was clear what was coming, but i had no idea how to get there. i struggled with this for a little, but soon enough i realized what i was doing and walked away. playing in our yard gave me something completely different to do, and let my subconscious do its job.

which it did very well, if i do say so myself.

i wasn’t feeling vey confident going back up to the garage this afternoon, but i knew i at least had to try. the half page or so was more probing and ideas, but then things started to make sense. as often is the case in such situations, i’d overstepped my role as observer/listener and tried to be the director/enforcer. what i expected the second half of the book to be about was not quite right.* once i recognized this, i was back on track.

as i mentioned, though, there’s plenty still to be done. while i feel good about the major structure, i have a lot of work still to do on the specific scenes. the outline for NGD was far more effective than for Witness, but it still lacked detail in a few areas. this didn’t seem so bad, particularly for an outline, but the lack of deep consideration of these few specific scenes in the outline stage resulted in probably several weeks of frustration and wasted** effort.

as a result, i’m planning on a more complete process with HHNF. i don’t want to go to obssessive detail, but i’m going to write out each of the key scenes in miniature, to make sure that each rings true. the precise language will certainly change in the full draft, but i need to make sure, for example, that if a character is going to make a life-changing decision, that the decision is grounded in that character’s truth. i can’t take it for granted that i’ll figure out a rationale when i get there. it may feel like the perfect evolution of the story as i’m writing the outline, but as i’ve said repeatedly, if the character doesn’t buy it (i.e., if i can’t hear/write the character’s explanation), then it’s a moot point.

as an example (which is not based on these stories): if i just write

[character X] convinces best friend to lie for him

and leave it at that, i’m assuming that will make sense when i get there, and the very difficult conversation that must surely happen will play out as i have it vaguely perceived in mind. chance of this unfolding in this manner? minimal, at best.

thus, mini-scenes. we’ll see whether they help me identify valid scenes and troubleshoot faulty perceptions, or just allow me to wallow in far too much detail far too early.


* not completely wrong, mind you, just not quite right.

** hard to call it completely wasted effort, if only for the lesson it taught me about not setting myself up for this kind of situation again, but i also learned…okay, so maybe that was the only lesson it taught me, but it’s a good lesson.