Next week is my last week going through Dead Weight’s outline. The last three weeks have been a fun exploration of this story and what I want it to say and I’ve learned a great deal. I highly doubt James Patterson will ever peek at this blog, but if he does he should know he has my eternal gratitude. That section of his class alone was worth the admission price.
Exactly what have I learned in this process?
Well … I’m sure we all know that every writer is different and the way they get words onto paper is going to be personal at some level. There are people who shun outlines completely and there are people who can’t start a novel without them.
Personally, I couldn’t start a novel with an outline but at around the three quarter mark in the book, I couldn’t finish one without an outline either. So at that point I would stop, go back and make a complete outline of the book so that all the subplots and things could tie together.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that.
But somewhere in the middle of this process with the outlines I took a new ownership of this story. It was always mine. The characters and the plot and the theme I had in there was all my content, but I only had a flimsy handle on it. Like it was driving itself and I was just interpreting what needed to be said (or misinterpreting in some places.)
Going through the outline again and again, challenging myself to tighten chapters, to focus on what is actually supposed to be revealed through each scene and character and twist, not only made my understanding of the story better but gave me a sense of control that wasn’t there before.
Writers walk a fine line between Art and Craft and I think sometimes we lean too heavily on “art.”
“Art” is when you just can’t find the inspiration to get words on paper. Yes, of course we need inspiration. The problem is that we bum around and say we just don’t have the right “mindset” to work that day instead of actively seeking that inspiration.
“Craft” is when you sit down at your computer at your given writing time and, shocker, you start writing. It’s better if you have inspiration and art on your side when you sit down to craft, but it’s not a guarantee.
The trick is getting “craft” to really direct your “art” and, in my case at least, this experiment with outlines has done that.