Instant Outline

I mentioned earlier two plans related to the novel I’m starting:

1) I’m starting with an outline rather than just diving in, primarily because I’m worried about my lack of organizational skills.

2) I’m taking the plot of a 20,000-word novella I wrote last fall and using that as the basis of the novel: I’m already familiar with the characters and motivations, and I had to cut a couple sub-plots that I liked in order to get it down to that length. Even without those cuts, the path is a little too smooth for the detective. The people who aren’t the murderer are perfectly helpful, if clueless and defensive. Nobody but the murderer tries to hinder his investigation through lies, distortions, and half-truths.

This latter point was partly the case because I was simply inexperienced at writing mysteries, and had not really been reading them with a critical eye. But at the time I was desperately trying to keep the word count down, and so the path was smoothed.

This morning I realized that plan 1 and plan 2 intersect in a very useful way: I don’t need to start the outline from nothing. I can re-read the original story and write an outline from it, then use that outline as the starting point for the novel-length one. I have done so, at least preliminarily: the result is two single-spaced pages (courier new font, 1″ margins), exactly 1000 words. (… OK, yes, I did that on purpose after I looked down and saw the count at 990-something)

This has given me the opportunity to gauge how my writing style meshes with my (emerging) outlining style. The first outline is pretty sparse. Which is fine, it’s supposed to be dry, but it also doesn’t tell the entire story: there are holes, particularly in the details about the evidence, and the contents of the conversations. So, I think that this was not entirely a success on the first attempt, but I’m glad I did it this way first, I think this will be valuable experience in proceeding.

On a side note: I’m putting together a page for this novel-in-progress so that I can post things like outlines to see. I’m debating with myself whether to make them available as I go, or just save them as drafts to reveal later. I would love to be able to show multiple drafts of the novel itself, but I don’t want to hem myself in by publishing online — that would drastically limit my options later. I might consider putting pieces behind a password that readers can ask me for. Not sure. Thoughts?

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