Repeat battle

I’ve been struggling again with that question of whether or not I should force myself to use an outline. Sure, Stephen King doesn’t use one, but I’m not that good, and never will be. I think the main reason I use him as a defense is because the way he describes his writing process is so very, very close to mine. The way he gets and approaches ideas, the way he pursues them and sees them through.

Though I don’t use an outline, doesn’t mean I don’t think about structure. I think about it a whole lot, and I study similar works for their structure and to learn how mine might come together. I keep it in my head and when I can, I jot down notes at least two or three scenes ahead to keep myself on a path.

The Red Box‘s structure isn’t anything new or experimental. It’s very much the Three Act Play structure described on this page, and in fact it’s quite helpful to read it spelled out like this because it helps me name two points where I worry the story is lacking: “The Explosive Incident” and “The Culminating Crisis.” Possibly also the “Midpoint solution,” though I’m not sure. And yes I realize that it’s bad that those two major turning points feel the weakest to me… stuff to work on. They’re both issues I kept thinking I had solved, but that never actually seemed to come together right after I put them in the scene.

And that’s my last quarrel with outlines. What seems to make sense in an abstract may not (and for me, often seems to not) make sense once all the pieces are actually in play. When I write a scene, when I’m really writing a scene and I’m in the moment it’s like I am the lead character and I’m seeing everything and I’m also the director and I’m viewing the scene and I’m also the narrator and hearing the scene and it’s… yeah.

But I’m a beginning novelist. Not a beginning writer though yeah, a finally-trying-to-get-serious writer. So maybe I need to keep trying the method that drives me crazy, that to me, threatens to suck the passion and heart and the excitement and that just-plain-seat-of-your-pants, gut, in the motherfucking moment thrill of it. Maybe if I keep it very open and vague. Just the major plot points. No details, let those work them out. Maybe even just prompts to provoke myself into feeling something for that scene?

We’ll see. I’m awfully stubborn, even when it’s hurting me more than helping me.

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