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Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It (And Probably, You Shouldn’t)…

Well, it’s been a year of blogs from yours truly, and what have we covered? What haven’t we covered?

We talked about how Hemingway’s ghost is almost certainly trying to plonk me with coconuts. We talked about the “joys” of artistic temperment (also known as an eight ball of insecurity, insanity & desperation), grey hairs, forehead wrinkles–I swear, some days I look old enough to be my own mother–battling the various seasons of distraction, stalking your characters, stalking yourself and occassionally others (ie. my eye doctor), kicking evil in the gonads, and being 100% disorganized for most of the writing process.

We discussed what happens when this little kookpie goes on vacation with her Beta Reader In Chief, whether or not vibrators made by the Dyson guy would be see-through with tornado action, whether or not Megatron porking Smurfette would result in tiny blue badass mutant offspring or huge blue badass mutant offspring (this *is* where my brain goes when it relaxes, sorry).

We also investigated the harvesting of the best “brains” at the All Nude Male Revue at Peppermints in Niagara Falls (hubba hubba), and wrangled several fantastic indie authors in my “Taking It To The Grave” series of Evil Author Interviews. Major bonus: some of those authors are still speaking to me after this ordeal! Must be my perfume. It sure isn’t my personality.

We talked about me spouting random Finnish phrases (kaamea ilma! kaamea ilma!) some of which I can no longer translate, but all of which I enjoy saying because the musical/demonic-sounding language of my ancestors makes me happy, even if I still can’t roll the R’s in the middle of seuraavissa liikennevaloissa … “Seurrrrrrr” *tongue fail* “Dammit! Seuuurrrrr” *pauses to wipe spittle off monitor*. We covered that I am  a bipolar biologist, bookseller-bookworm, stalker-eavesdropper, peeper/groper,  unrepentant pervert, amateur writer and professional doofus.

What we didn’t discuss was outlining … mostly because, I don’t know how to outline, and have been putting off learning by using the handy-dandy, nifty-swifty “that’s not how I roll” excuse. In all honesty, I suspect my life would be a lot simpler if I did learn to outline, but I am a World Class Procrastinator when it comes to things that might punch my brain in the face.

<I’d be procrastinating right now, if I had the stamina.>

This year *pauses to take a bracing sip of tea* I’m going to attempt it: I’m going to teach myself how to outline. I even typed that whole sentence without fainting, although I might have thrown up a little in my mouth.

I am sorta kinda first-draft “finished” with my second novel, Death Rejoices. (<— Note how I’m laying facedown on the fence, there … the trick is, put one boob on either side for balance. ) My method for organizing my thoughts throughout my first and second novel looked like this:

I don’t think this is outlining. If it is, GREAT, I already do it, and I’m done and don’t need to learn anything else. However, I suspect I could do a lot better, because I still run into the “uh, now what?” problem; if I were fully outlined, I must assume that wouldn’t happen. Maybe this is naive. Maybe I’m overestimating the power of an outline. Maybe I’m underestimating my “Pantser” techniques–after all, I’ve been writing for twenty-five years, and I’ve managed to produce … oh, right. One finished book. *scuffs toe in blogland sand* Ok, so, yeah, I do need to rethink my process. (Now’s probably a good time to mention that I don’t get around to filling out my plot cards until I’m about 3/4 through writing the novel, after I get stuck and go, “Wonka wha– What happened? How am I in a rendering plant in Wyoming? Who’s Greg? And what the hairy fuck is werelichen? Is this a joke? Am I high?”)

But for book three (tentatively renamed Last Impressions) I’m using the Snowflake Method. If this doesn’t help, I’ll be touring around checking out other methods, and this is where you come in. I invite you to share your outlining methods with me, tips you’ve learned over the years to make organizing your thoughts easier. Do you use a chalk board? A cork board? A grease board (I want one of those, how FBI-chic would that be?), a series of notebooks, a voice recorder? Or are you like me: shoving notecards in my idea box, never to be seen again, and cramming random scraps of paper in toppling piles, and repeating important plot points over and over, like “don’t forget he lost his tongue, don’t forget he lost his tongue” …boy, I get some weird looks in the grocery store.

(editor’s note: AJ Aalto would like to show you the hysterical new size of the Tim Hortons XLRG hot beverage cups. Granted, my hands are wee, and therefore not the best scale to use, but the Moleskine notebook on the right hand side should give you a fair indication of just how much caffeine is on my desk. *twitch*)

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3 Responses to Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It (And Probably, You Shouldn’t)…

  1. Nubia says:

    I think the biggest tbcoasle for me with something like Scrivener is that I still have to do the work of organization, Scrivener just gives me on-screen tools for it. Which is cool, as far as it goes, but for me to really get a lot out of an organization tool, I’d like to see it do more on the fly, and decide what’s superfluous. Like, picking up on names through out the text and creating its own file about descriptive words used around the name, with the ability to link dynamically from the dossier to all of those uses. That would be interesting to me, but no one’s really done that yet. At least, not that I’ve seen.

  2. RJ Davnall says:

    I normally write in order. Otherwise the continuity editing is hard, and I hate continuity editing. I plan in whatever order my thoughts choose, but writing has to be linear.

  3. RJ Davnall says:

    So many outlining techniques, so little time. I tend to blutack up a bunch of file cards on the wall, then ignore them and scribble my outline on a series of bits of good old-fashioned A4 paper in whatever order I need to know stuff.

    Equally, I find it’s more the content than the technique that’s important… This is my bible on story structure, though: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcmiqQ9NpPE (first part of 5, also I suspect this author would be right up your street).

    In essence, I use that structure, then just flesh it out into actual scenes.

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