Lessons for Outlining Next Book

On the topic of writing, did some heavy outlining on my next book today, which is tentatively titled “Byebye and Shlort.” It’s about how no matter how X-Men special you are, no matter how well your psychic powers work, no one will listen to you if you’re poor, because in the USA it’s a crime to be poor and poor people are blamed for their situation without any question. It takes place in San Jose!

The outline is now huge and messy, but it’s as complete as I want it at this phase. The last few years “outlining” has really evolved for me. My organization method started as a sludge of paper food boxes, ATM receipts, notebook pages and so forth scattered on my desk or in my backpack or wherever else I could keep things depending on my living situation. It was like this for almost ten years, and was a step up from carrying ideas around in my addled adolescent head and losing all the great ideas over and over.

Then those notes started to get typed into the top of the computer file in which I type the story. One lesson I learned was to tell myself what each sequence or chapter or whatever has to do with the themes, characters, plot, etc. But this didn’t stop me from being a nervous neat freak and deleting notes as they went into the story. Stupid! Thank heaven for Google Drive and other backup techniques.

Now I’ve got the outline and page numbers for where each piece of notes goes into the manuscript. If I move it, the mark can change. I’ve also broken the outline up into two documents: the short THEMES document that tells me what I’m writing about, and the outline telling me what order the story goes in. This satisfies my need not to have everything in my face at once, and also allows for the establishment of a symbolic marking system so that the themes document can explain what I’m doing to me, with marks for when such thing happens, so I’m free to forget what the hell I did yesterday.

I think this story will come out, therefore, with very little fat, with digressions and extensions distinguishing themselves, and with an almost poetic focus on the presence of the themes in every word. Did you like Meat Ladder to Mars? Wait’ll you read Bybebye and Shlort, it’s gonna blow your fragile mind.

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