No plan survives contact with the enemy, but plans are really useful anyway.
The thing is, my writing tends to be pretty organic. The conversations my characters have aren’t manufactured through some formula. The path the story takes? It’s not set in stone. I tend to outline just enough to give me a path to follow, maybe some high points to hit, and then write.
The outlines I write are more detailed at the start of the story, and less so at the end — often having a single outline point like, “Hero saves the world.” I mean, that’s enough: it says everything it needs to say.
Making characters real means you need to allow them some flex in their interactions. If you need John to get that cat out of the tree, but it’s more fun or interesting to have the cat escape from him instead, you’re kind of screwed if your whole story revolves around him returning to Andy with the cat.
The better writing gets lost in service to the outline you’ve drafted, and that’s not okay.
Different writers have different views on this, and I think that’s great. I’m not trying to tell people that there’s only one way to tell a story — I’m saying that when I write stories, I try and make sure there’s room for my characters to grow through that story. After you’ve spent 100,000 words with someone, they’re a lot more real than they were on page one, right?
When I wrote Night’s Favour, the basic outline — hand drawn in blue pen — was on a page of my notebook, and some supplementary pages for specific scenes. Writing Upgrade, a more complex story, I’ve needed to bust out Scapple to do a quick A4 on the moving parts. There’s lines everywhere.
Funny thing is, both stories diverged from the originally planned ending. It’s meant more work for me in terms of the writing, but it makes me happier with the end result. I’d rather the end show a believable outcome for my characters than keeping to an outline that was started months — if not years — ago.
Outlines are great, but like the rest of what I write, they’re disposable in favour of the better story. To make things better, you sometimes need to throw your initial thoughts into the trash.
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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