Monthly Archives: August 2015

When the outline’s too short

I outline, barely, what I need to do when I write.  I just started to outline with these past two novels.  Normally I’m a total pantser, and I write whatever the muse tells me to do.

So I did a very general outline when I first started War Mage.  It was like “Meets dragons”, “Black Lions”, “Meets <Ware>”.  Then I go off and write.

It seems, sometimes, that the characters do their own thing.  Okay, I let them, figuring that’s what rewriting is for.

I’m deep in the middle of the first draft, transcribing it as I’m going along.  Already one entire scene appeared out of nowhere (because I wasn’t utilizing a character enough) into the second draft, and a huge scene that I wrote in one 2-hour stretch disappeared.  I’m not sure if I’ll use that scene or not. Ever.

Today, I listened to a podcast that I won’t listen to anymore because the hostess takes over the entire conversation for blocks of minutes leaving her guests to say, “Oh, that’s nice.”   The hostess, of course, said that nobody makes their characters grow in romance fiction anymore.  And that got me to thinking, did I make Brent grow at all?  Because right now, War Mage reads like a series of vignettes, a bunch of scenes, where he’s reporting on what’s happening but we don’t get what he thinks.  Hell, half of the people he talks to have no names.

Like the scene I wrote last night – it’s total reporting of what happened.  No inner dialogue, no reaction on his part.  And it was supposed to be a powerful scene.

This is what I’m deathly afraid of.  I’ve made a two-dimensional main character.

So once I transcribe the first/second draft, I’ll try to make him grow.

But in the meantime, my outline is getting too short.  What does this mean?

I have to brainstorm.  This is where index cards come in handy.  Because I’m a character-driven writer, I start stories with characters, not plot (sometimes I have a Point A to Point B story, and nothing in between).

I’m going to try this:  I’ll get some index cards and write a backstory, quick and dirty.  Name, age, where they’re from, what branch/division/company they’re in, physical description.  How they interacted with MC.  I should have a nice healthy stack.

Then I’ll pull one out.  Would this character show up again?  If so, how?  What would he do next with Brent?

If nothing comes to mind, I have some writing prompt books and a couple of characterization books to help me through.

Plot will find its way out then.

Oh, by the way, I’m up to 23K words.  I do have a bare bones of a plot, but, like I said, the outline is getting too short and there’s no end in sight.


No plot? Big problem

13,000 words into the new novel, and I still have no idea what the plot is.

So far I have introduced:

  • Dragons
  • Marines
  • FOB Blessing
  • Black Lions

I will admit I’m swiping from some books I’m reading in addition to Fighting Season a documentary on Direct TV about the war in Afghanistan.  Unfortunately, I think, it takes place after my character is there.

A book I’m reading, Siren’s Song, is about one first lieutenant platoon leader in the Kunar Provence.  It takes place in 2008, but it mentioned FOB Blessing which I was happy to see.  FOB Blessing must have been there for quite some time by the time Siren gets there; it’s relatively new when my MC is there.

-Usually by 5K words, I have a plot.  Or at least a theme.  Here, I got nuthin’ but an outline.

It bothers me.  It bothers me that 13K words are going to be a total waste.