Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Q" Review: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success."

 August, 2012

The most recent “How To” book I’m reading on the craft of writing is titled
“Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success ” by K.M. Weiland  (2011).

“How To” books can be hard for me to adsorb sometimes. Once I’ve read a few, they start to sound repetitive. I have to really search for a title that tells me something I didn’t already know. Sure, these books can bring me insight, but what they don’t do is hone my craft for me. No matter how many of these books I read, I realize I won’t get any better at my writing unless I practice. And practicing means I need to make mistakes. And making mistakes means I need to take time to learn to fix them. (The tedium.) 

I chose “Outlining Your Novel” initially because it caught my eye as I skimmed through a list of writing books on I thought, “I’m an outliner, and so what can this book tell me that I don’t already know and practice?”  I figured it would be an easy read, and “Wham. Blur. Goodbye Sir…” I’d be done. Another “how to” book down the writing hatch and assignment completed.

That being said, this book surprised me. The first thing that grabbed me about it was the writer’s style. Weiland starts out with misconceptions about outlines and outliners and lays it on the line. I appreciated the author’s voice and the simplicity that she used to get the point across. She has a voice I like to read, which is odd because (as a woman) there’s not many female writing voices I like. Women tend to write passively, and are seldom strong without being their writing voices. Weiland’s voice was confident and steady throughout this manuscript, and I found it was influential as well as logical.

In her first chapter, which covers misconceptions about outlining and benefits of outlining I felt she was trying to convince the “pantsers” out there that they could indeed outline and benefit from it if they gave the idea a chance. As an outliner AND pantser, I could see her points but I wasn’t sure a pure pantser would agree with her. What I know is that it helps me if I have a basic roadmap to follow. I start with deciding how I want the beginning, the middle and the end of the story to go.

The first chapter addresses the war between outliner and pantser factions, and tries to bring the arguments together to meet in the middle. One of my favorite quotes in the first chapter is: “The individual writer is the only expert of his own proficiency.” 
It’s very true. It’s also depressing when I take time to realize I’m not as proficient as I’d like to be. Life gets in the way. I can’t write a page a day. I’m way to busy to do that, and I’m a perpetual procrastinator. I’d rather write ten pages in a sitting.

I also take on too many daily projects at once. The end result is that I do everything at the last minute. I also tend to get them done, but not necessarily to the best of my ability.

September, 2012

I've been able to take in a few more chapters since I started reading this.  Chapter 9 is my favorite so far. This chapter gets into some major veggie-pie of the writer's organizational skills. I understand that decisions are best made before writing much of the story. Getting the writing done ahead of time will save the author a great deal of rewriting work. Even though the assertion is that a pantser "likes to find out" how the story is going to go by writing without an outline, if they compromise and do some basic  gumshoe research first, they will be so much better off. (Thus says the woman with 2 novels that are only 3/4 written.) And I've realized through experience, as well as this book, to always always be sure your story contains humor, action and relationships. And for horror writers . . . lots of blood. Don't skimp on the blood.

October 2012

The final chapters. And so Weiland brings the art of outlining all together in the final pages. It's not like some major magical secret shrouded in veils of riddles. It really is a call the putting together the outline as the "road map" for the novel. Furthermore, Weiland really works hard to entice 'pantsers' that his was will help them.  I find myself visualizing pantsers much like the Frenchmen on top of the castle in The Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Tell them we already got one!" And they chuckle while King Author appears extremely puzzled since it is his personal quest.

And so, whether outliner or pantser, our goal or quest if you will, is to complete the novel with elements of humor, action  and relationships in such a way that the reader feels drawn in and doesn't feel a sense of they've done the same thing over and over. Let the reader experience something new. Even cooks make new dishes using regular ingredients in a whole now way. Let's inspire. Let's DARE to do prose differently. And then. Oh my. Just THEN . . . we might even excite the reader.



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