Monday, September 25, 2006

Editing and Outlines

I am having an issue today, I want to edit DH and I'm not sure if I should or not.

Holly has four copies of the manuscript out with editors already, so if I do change anything and one of the editors wants my novel, I will probably have to change it back. (I know there will be edits after the editor picks it up, but I'm not sure what to expect with that or how open the editing will be on my end.) If none of these editors bite, having a tweaked manuscript might be a good thing. I don't know, and I don't even know who I can ask. I suppose I could ask Holly, but I don't want to 1.) bother her, 2.) sound like an idiot, or 3.) make it appear I sent her the manuscript before it was ready.
Three weeks ago I was pretty sure it was ready. Now I can think of places that could be better. (I haven't let myself read over it because I knew that would incite another edit. If I ever do get to see this thing in print, I will probably have to continuously buy new copies because mine will all be filled with red ink.) So do I go ahead and edit it or try to focus on MG?

Maybe I am going through editing withdrawal. I have been editing DH all year; this is the longest break I have taken from it.

On a less uncertain note, I was looking over my outline for MG and realized there is not near enough tension and the climax is dinky. I guess I should be happy I noticed it now and not after the first draft was complete. So right now I'm back tracking a bit and working on the pacing in my outline.

It makes me wonder how many other authors write outlines, and how those that do write them, use them.

I started using outlines relatively recently, but I rarely completed projects before I began outlining. It used to be that characters would show up in the back of my head one day and start talking. Random dialogue and clips of scenes would come to me (not a plot mind you, just quirky things.) From those scraps I would start discovering what kind of world my characters lived in. These characters and scenes would simmer on the backburner for a while then eventually inspiration would take over and I would sit down and start writing. 10 to 40k words would boil out of this pot of inspiration before it calmed and retreated to the background again. I liked the characters and the world, but I had no idea where the story was going. I might tinker with it, adding a few words now and then, but if the characters weren't talking to me, I had no idea what was going on in their story.

This led to a very large graveyard of story beginnings on my computer.

I don't remember why I suddenly decided to outline one day. I'd been reading about it in books for years, but I guess I had always figured it was a technique for someone other than me. I did decide to outline though, and when the pot boiled over instead of indulging in writing out the wonderful details of everything flashing through my head, I started jotting down rough notes and moving on to what happened next, and then after that, and after that, and all the way to the end. By the time the inspiration ran out, I knew the end.
I had a map!
Now all I had to do was throw those summaries of scenes from my outline into the pot, coax it to a boil, and the scene would take off. If I got lost or wandered too far, I had a map to help me to the next scene.
For DH, the outline was written after I already had several thousand words on paper because DH started as a way to get over writer's block. Consequently, most of what I wrote before I started outlining ended up getting cut in edits or completely rewritten because it lacked voice. Almost all the diversions I made while writing (and editing) made the story stronger in my opinion, (Because an outline might be a map, but it is not the one and true way, I take detours.) but the outline controlled the overall pace of the story. Despite that, it wasn't until I tried to write a summery that I realized the lead up to my climax was horrid. It had to be completely rewritten.
I didn't foresee that once when writing the outline or the first draft. The fact that I can see the pacing issues present in my outline for MG gives me hope that I am becoming better at my chosen craft. I never changed DH's outline after it was written.

So I am wondering, how many of you out there outline?
If you do use outlines, do you spend a lot of time making sure they are the best map they can be, or are your outlines more of a rough skeleton?

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