Currently, I’m in the middle of writing the tenth book in the Elsie Jones Adventures (The first of which will release in the spring of next year), and I’ve been thinking more and more about process. The closer I get to the fifteenth book (The concluding book of the series) , the more difficult it is to write the books because there is so much more that goes into them.
The first three were pure adventures. They each had a beginning middle and end, and for the fifteen book arc, I could act like a writer from the TV series Lost and make up anything I wanted to. Books four, five, and six got to explore the over all story arc while still being complete adventures, but I still didn’t have to bring things together. Then in books seven, eight, and nine, realizations began to take place and the over all story arc became clear. Now writing book ten I’m having trouble with a clear vision to the end.
My writers group, The Live Poets Society, contains a mixture of writing concepts. There are those that write only what’s on their mind at the time and then go back later and bring it all together, there are those that write from start to finish with an arc in mind, and then there’s me, who comes up with a complete outline before writing a single word in the story.
I know the main contention to writing an outline first. People tell me all the time.
“I don’t want to be contained. If I get into some good writing I don’t want to have to keep it to the outline.”
Believe me I felt the same way before I had a writing contract.
Writing an outline first is like doing your due diligence in a research project. The outline is the creative outlet. when you’re writing an outline, you get to come up with the plot line. You are not bound by having to deal with language or grammar, you are not bound by having to keep your own thoughts out of the text. You can do whatever you want to, then when you’re done, you have a complete story arc, not just a beginning, and end and some random scenes you really want to write.
When I first started writing Elsie Jones I wrote from the cuff. I had a vague idea of what I wanted and I wrote what came to me, flowing through my fingers onto the screen. Now I have the outline to make sure that things don’t get too screwy.
Do I always stick to the outline with zeal? No. Things always come up when you’re writing, but outlining is a great way to brainstorm and keep your thoughts linear. When you have a complicated subplot that ranges over fifteen books, but each book has to be a contained adventure all it’s own you get a bit bogged down in the minutia. The only way out of it is to outline.
Give it a shot. Do some outlining of your own. See how it strikes you. I guarantee your stories will be better and more cohesive.