Writing a Novel is like Driving at Night

road at nightWell, now that the agent edits are done on another work, I’m back at work on the second Sentient.  I was calling it The Ancients, but the further I got into it, the less it fit.  Now it’s tentatively titled, Sentient: Insurrection.  We’ll see if it grows into this title. I’m finally getting a sense of where this book is going.  Time to revise my outline to fit it.  

I often feel that writing a novel is like driving at night.  You start out pretty much knowing where you’re going, but you may not know exactly how you’ll get there.  Or you have a preconceived idea of the route, but you encounter roadblocks along the way.  And you can only see as far as your headlights let you.  

That’s why I use an outline.  

A lot of writers use one.  Some people use only a short paragraph, or a list of ideas in their mind.  That’s an outline, in the most condensed form.  

My outlines are ‘liquid’.  I mean, they move, as the story moves me.  My characters are in control.  Always.  As they move through the story, they, by necessity, change.  That, in turn, dictates what they will and will not do.  My outlines changes to match that.

My outline is important.  It helps me keep track of where I’ve been and where I may want to go.  It helps me see the sequence of events  and the tension levels as they build through the story.  Every thought I have about my story gets put in there.  I can’t imagine writing without one.  

I color code mine.  Each character gets their own color.  Black is for the main character, once that scene has been written.  Before the scenes are written, each character is in a red or orange tone, bolded, so I can see the differences better.  As I build the story, I often find I have to insert something in earlier chapters.  These get added to the outline in red, so I can see that I need to do them.  

As I said earlier, my outline is ‘liquid’.  If I’m on scene 17 and the character doesn’t want to die, even though the outline clearly states he should, guess what?  He lives and the outline is changed ALL THE WAY DOWN THE LINE to accommodate that decision.  I don’t get rid of anything else that WAS there, I just put it in parenthesis behind the new info.

Right now, for Sentient II, my outline is only 1/3 completed because my story is only 1/3 completed.  I have lots of ideas, all in red or orange tones, peppered into designated places, but they can (and most likely will) move.  Each author writes their own way.  This is a big part of mine.  

#outline #novelwriting #amwriting

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About Wendy L. Koenig

I was born in Colorado, but raised on a small homestead in Illinois. I served in the USAF right out of high school. After my stint in the military was finished, I returned home and had a horse stable. My first piece to be printed was a short children’s fiction, Jet’s Stormy Adventure, serialized in The Illinois Horse Network. It was a natural fit, given my business. Later, I attended University of Iowa's famed summer workshops and writing programs. Since that time, I have authored and co-authored numerous books. Several of my novels and short stories have won international awards and have appeared in multiple venues.
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