Monday, April 16, 2007


Back when writing was just a bit of fun (that'd be before I got a publishing gig) plotting was something I'd tried and discarded as a devious kind of torture. I tried writing a novel to a plot a couple of times, and it was like memorising the screenplay of a movie before sitting down to watch it for the first time. Every twist, every turn laid out like the guts of an expertly dissected frog.

Where's the fun in that?

Well, one thing plot-haters soon learn is that their carefree and wasteful writing methods don't fit the commercial publishing model. If you have a deadline to meet, you can't spend eighteen months writing fun scenes just because they caught your fancy.

But how many second, third or fourth books have you read which didn't capture the fun and excitement of an earlier title by the same author? Ever feel a book was rushed out to meet a particular timeslot? Or that the plot was agreed to early on, and subsequently served as a strait jacket for the author?

I'm stitching my own strait jacket right now - I have an eight-page outline for Hal 4 which I've been revising and tweaking for some weeks. The idea is to have this comprehensive document I can discuss with my editor. (That's 'discuss' in the way that the English and French discussed Agincourt.)

I only hope that when I start writing I discover my dissected frog has a second heart, nine limbs and an electronic brain.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Mary Paddock said...

If it stops "feeling" like a rollicking good time, I suspect you'll be the first to know, outline or not.

After trying it both ways (with and without), I've settled for a hybrid of notes and a strong sense of direction. This was a lot more natural for me than trying to follow an outline (which I really hated).

redchurch said...

I just did a post on this.

You might want to check out Jeff Kitchen's book Writing A Great Movie. I found many invaluable tricks in it.