Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hooray for scene outlining

So last week I said I was going to try outlining scenes before writing them in an effort to increase my writing speed.  I'm delighted to report that so far it's worked really, really well.  Since Monday of last week I've written over 10,000 words on Labyrinth of Flame - more than I managed all last month! - and this even though I was sick for several of the days and running on very little sleep.

Granted, these words are pretty rough in quality.  But they're not completely unusable, either - the flow of the story feels decent, and I find myself excited to keep pushing ahead (rather than dying to stop and revise).  I'm delighted that I seem to have at last found a balance between speed and quality that'll work for me in this first rough draft.

The funny part is, I'd tried this technique before back during the days I was slaving away on Tainted City, and it didn't work at all for me then.  I think because I hadn't found the right approach to the outline - I would either take so long to come up with a detailed one that I felt I might as well have just started writing the scene straight out, or else I'd write a list too vague to be useful.  The key that's made it work for me now is to outline only the part I know I'll find most difficult to write (usually either dialogue or details of action).  If I think through that first, then all the rest (description, etc) is easy to fill in when I sit down to tackle the scene.

Yet again, proof that every writer -  heck, even every book! - is different; and you've got to fiddle around and adapt and discover what works for you in the moment.

In other news, I'm looking forward to attending MileHiCon here in Denver the weekend after next (I'll post my schedule in a few days).  But here's the best news of all: some of the roads from Boulder up into the mountains have re-opened!  (Everything's been closed for ages due to flood damage.)  I'm totally thinking of ditching the keyboard for a hike this weekend.  Sadly, the fall color season in the high country is already over...but in honor of beautiful fall days in the mountains, I'll leave you with a couple pics from a previous Colorado autumn.  

Aspen near Brainard Lake (red aspen are my favorite!)

Aspen along the Peak-to-peak Highway west of Boulder


  1. So it's like you outline just the triple axels, step by step, 'cause you know your way through the rest?

    And gorgeous photos!

    1. Sort of! To take a scene from the 1st book (so as to minimize spoilers!), it's like if I was about to write the scene where Dev finally tells Cara the truth about what's going on - I'd need to sketch out the flow of the conversation in "he then she says..." form. Dev's reactions and internal thoughts would then be relatively easy for me to fill in as I write, once I have an outline of how the conversation will go.

      Alternatively, if I'm doing a scene like the one where Dev first spies on Simon, I'd better figure out the details of action first: how exactly is Dev going to sneak into a spot where he can overhear? How will he deal with the wards, how can he see what's going on, why wouldn't Simon notice him, etc. Once I've got that all set out in my head, then it's much easier to write through the scene at speed.

    2. I get it now. Kind of like how actors block out a fight scene, and then they go into it with all the emotion and swearing, without having to pause and go, "Do you whack me now, or do I whack you?"