Tag Archive | setting

My Outlining Method

If I had to give my outlining method for my NaNoWriMo novel a name, I’d call it something like the “Kitchen Sink” method. I don’t know. I just made that up. After writing some basic character sketches including age (important since I have a lot of people several hundred years old), appearance and history that defines who they are (in my main character’s case I wrote a little personality bio, since most of the things happening to shape her happen in-story) and some setting info, I started writing the plot itself. This is where the kitchen sink comes into play.

In a nutshell, I write the chapter number at the top of the page and list things I want to happen in that chapter in semi-dotpoint, semi-sentence form. Sometimes I write a couple of words while other times I go into detail about particular events. For example, I wrote “The cheer squad is having issues with pyramids”, which will result in at least a few paragraphs of text when I begin writing in November. I wrote another section in more detail:

-          Gwen’s father comes home from wherever the hell he’s been. He hasn’t seen little sis (Emily from hereon out) either.

-          Knowing her parents wouldn’t believe her, Gwen calls Miranda. They need to find Jack. He’s their only lead.

-          They visit the football field to find him there. He smells of rot and his face has sunken like that thing outside Gwen’s window. He’s also losing his hair and his red eyes glow.

-          He can’t speak, or won’t. Gwen feels uncomfortable and nicks a baseball bat from a sports bag nearby – the baseball team had just finished practise.

-          Jack comes at them, groaning like a goddamn zombie. He puts his rotting fingers around Miranda’s throat. Gwen swings… and his head comes clean off.

-          The girls freak out and run, ditching the bat.

So it really depends on how much detail I feel like going into. I end up with a lot of random stuff that’s probably not all that important. I don’t really have a clear end in mind as I’m writing, just general ideas on where I want the story to go. I’m basically being a pantser with my outline. I’m slowly getting a clearer picture of what’s going to happen at the end, but I’m more than halfway through my outline at this point in time, provided I write between twenty-five and thirty chapters.

With this outline, I’m basically learning about the characters in my story much like I would when writing a first draft with no outline. I think this will be helpful when it comes to drafting this particular novel, since I’ll already have a pretty clear idea of who everyone is. With Coldfire, I had no idea who anyone really was until I’d edited the book at least twice, since most of the characterization was pretty shallow in the beginning.

Overall, I think this outline will be beneficial to my story, but I don’t know if I’ll do it for any novels not written during NaNoWriMo, since it is so time-consuming. I started outlining about a week ago and will probably take another week to finish it, between school and needing to sleep. Maybe I’ll work out a quicker method later, for the times when I just want to write the damn thing and screw the outline.

Fanfiction

I used to write Harry Potter fanfiction. Admittedly, I was thirteen at the time, but it was a great learning experience. I’ve been interested in writing things since I was about seven (at least, that’s as far as I can remember) and my first story attempts were about Princess Flower and her unicorn she thought was called Rosie until it was discovered she had to figure out her real name (Buttercup) or she would die. Yeah, even at seven I had a sadistic streak. I’m sure any psychotherapists out there would love to analyse me.

Anyway, my first foray into the world of fanfiction was when I was about twelve and I started trying my hand at using the character from Harry Potter. The results were disastrous, and I just so happened to pick a fanfic site that had specific guidelines about quality. Still, it gave me something to aim for. I scrapped story after story and honed my version of Harry until finally my chapters were getting accepted. This taught me how to use dialogue correctly, as a moderator kindly taught me how to do it in one of their rejection emails (thank you!). This is how Valora Audice, my main character’s love interest in my novel, came to be. Originally she was Valora Prewitt, Ron Weasley’s long-lost cousin who I made up to be Harry’s love interest, as I liked writing the aftermath of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix therefore creating an alternative storyline to J.K. Rowling’s. The character of Valora has been around for four years. My novel is only two years old.

I think fanfiction is a useful tool to nurture one’s interest in writing and hone one’s writing skills. My problem with it is that so many people do it and want to show it to the world, rather than just the people who are interested in it. I think fanfiction belongs on fanfiction sites rather than on sites for all writing such as WritersCafe, which is one I use. I know I have a friend on that site who writes fanfiction and she might not agree with me, and there may be others, too. As long as I’m not expected to read or review fanfiction, then I’m fine to let it go.

I no longer write fanfiction, as I feel confident in creating my own characters and my own world. It helped to build my confidence and writing skill and helped me connect with other Harry Potter fans. I no longer feel the need to write it. I no longer dream of J.K. Rowling’s characters. I dream of my own.

So here’s my opinion, nicely summarized: Feel free to write fanfiction, but don’t expect others to be interested in it unless you post it on a website specifically for that purpose. Fanfiction is a useful learning tool, but don’t expect it to get you anywhere. As nicely as you may write it, you are merely playing with someone else’s toys. I feel there is a much greater satisfaction in creating and playing with your own.