here’s an example page of my outline. it pretty much looks like this all through, some parts being REALLY DETAILED and some parts being questions and some parts being like “well if this novel is going to make sense I need to remember that this and this are happening”. occasionally it turns almost into prose when I get DEEPLY EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED in a scene whose bones I’m trying to get down.
Could you, no pun intended, outline your outlining process for us? I know you keep saying you don't know how to novel, but you seem to be doing pretty well, and I'd love to benefit from your experiencedom. (I, too, have a languishing NaNo project I would love to return to, as well as two fairytale novels I want to finish but then go "OH MY GOD HOW DO YOU STRUCTURE?" and panic and shove everything back into drawers and Netflix instead.)
hahahahaha no my tag is ‘i don’t know how to write a novel’ because I AM LITERALLY MAKING IT UP AS I GO. like, we all know what a finished novel looks like? so as writers we have an instinctive knowledge of what the thing we’re trying to make is supposed to look like in the end? but for the most part we are not really taught how to get from inception > page (not that there’s any one way that works for everyone!!!), and a lot of people get hugely frustrated with writing because all of their steps are WRITE WHAT A BOOK LOOKS LIKE and it very rarely… works…
but seriously. I have been writing patchily by instinct and desperation for my entire not-career. this might explain why I have never actually EXPERIENCED the middle-of-the-novel doldrums until, uh, just now. (I knew they existed, and I could easily see why and how and sympathise, but I’d never dealt with them directly because I NEVER MAKE IT TO THE MIDDLE OF A NOVEL. my ideas are too big for me, and I love characters and the intricacy and continuity of character relationships but am SO BAD AT PLOTTING PLOT. especially when I try to write it out as straight-up prose and be like WELL I’LL MAKE SOME NOTES ABOUT WHERE I WANT THIS TO GO AND IT’LL GET THERE EVENTUALLY. no. this is how you get stuck and discouraged.)
years and years ago I remember reading that the process of a novelist I loved was to write a super detailed summary of her ENTIRE BOOK, chapter by chapter, like an actual summary of everything that happens without the details or dialogue, and I went, that’s ridiculous, how could you possibly even manage that? like, you need to ~~~FEEL~~~ things before you can tell how they proceed! you need to understand how the characters interact! and how can you possibly do that without having written Real Prose For Real?
only, you know, my previous outlines were always one to three pages and didn’t help much with the bit where I never finish things because they get too big and complicated.
and then Marwick happened. thus far Marwick has obeyed NONE OF MY PREVIOUS RULES FOR HOW WRITING WORKS — sure, I got overly emotional involved before, but not to the level of WEEPING IN PUBLIC and FALLING INTO THE PANTRY. it takes like a year of marinating before I manage to come up with a solid plot; having an entire trilogy in a month’s time is ABSURD! and here I am, writing an outline that is basically a chapter by chapter detailed summary of EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS. (thus far. I am sure things will shift and transform when I get back to writing proper, and they’ll change again in the next draft, because that’s how it works.) because I really, really, really want to write this novel. so I am going to figure out HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN A WAY THAT ACTUALLY WORKS, which means having to figure out all of the weird skeleton stuff that doesn’t show in the finished product and isn’t the same for every writer. anyway, I started out thinking, maybe I should try to outline this in more detail, kind of map out events and chapters, and it went from some bullet points for chapter one to LONG, DESCRIPTIVE DESCRIPTIONS OF ACTIONS AND INTERACTIONS plus the usual me taking asides to ask questions and remind myself to put certain things in, and me finding out new things the way you usually do when you’re WRITING, not outlining. it’s like… pre-writing? and I am getting out all of my “tell not show” instincts out first thing — I often tell instead of showing in early drafts because in the heat of the moment I have to make sure that I am going to be able to see and know what I was trying to get at.
anyway, seriously, I barely even know what my process is, this is the first time I have done this for real, and it is a huge and terrifying learning process. I don’t think I could get through it if I didn’t love my stupid novel so ridiculously much.
mykene replied to your photo: how to outline a novel: an expert and professional…
your outlining has 100% more wine than mine does. And probably has actual names instead of me calling everyone by titles and going I’LL FIGURE OUT NAMES LATER. JUST THROW SOME DBs AND COPIOUS Y AS ONLY VOWEL AND SILENT DHEs AROUND.
my outline is a REALLY DETAILED SUMMARY of everything
except sometimes when it’s not and it’s me going “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING” and “SOMEHOW POINT A TO POINT B” and “HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE” and “REMEMBER TO ACTUALLY WRITE SCHOOL STUFF”
and sentences like “that scene where Mal takes off his shirt for actual reasons of plot”
someday I will teach a class on how to write and everyone will leave the class very confused
uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh was just pressed to explain marwick to a dude in this coffeeshop (turns out i knew him and forgot that i knew him and i might do some music for his movie at some point which is why it isn’t super invasive that he asked me what i was doing (outlining a novel) and then what the novel i was outlining was about)
a surreal experience
(i hate talking about ya fiction to dudes in my age range because THEY DON’T READ ANY so i have to explain what it isn’t before i explain what it is and then i feel like i have to fight not to be regarded as ~~~a girlwriter~~~)
i mostly said “paranormal English boarding school folklore novel”
and he assumed from this description that it took place… in the past…?
I DON’T EXPLAIN MARWICK TO IRL PEOPLE VERY OFTEN IT’S WEIRD
miss jolene you should talk a bit about the hounds of god to catch us all up okay
haaaaa, ONLY FOR YOU~
okay, since it’s been ages since I’ve talked about this other than randomly in the tags to pictures of wolves or woods, The Hounds of God was my NaNo project in 2010, which is still sitting on a back shelf in my brain because it’s kind of missing… most of the plot…
anyway, it’s stylistically sort of a pastiche of mid-century YA novels because the structure and writing of those makes me really happy? and the story is this: during the Blitz, teenage Cilla Madigan is sent away from London to the mysterious family of her long-dead mother (who her father never married) who live in a remote village and Aren’t Talked About Much. it turns out that… they aren’t talked about much because they’re, uh, werewolves. an entire extended family of impoverished-patrician werewolves, charged with protecting this village because this village protects a gate to Hell. and you know how hellgates are — if somebody’s not trying to straight-up open it, there’s still power radiating from it and all sorts of trouble is drawn to the area because of that. (like. ALL GENRE FANS KNOW THIS, C’MON.) there’s fun folklore about werewolves specifically existing as anointed by God to go fight evil, and I’ve made it so it isn’t extended to all werewolves, but this particular werewolf family does have that legacy (for one thing, their lycanthropy is hereditary, whereas even in-universe most werewolves are made).
also the Wild Hunt is involved. as far as I can make out, someone is trying to channel both the Wild Hunt and the Hellgate to do… something… bad… but, uh. I told you. the plot is MISSING here.
besides Cilla, there’s a main trio rounded out by her angry werewolf cousin Olivia (she and Cilla start off hating each other viciously, not least because Olivia doesn’t know how to interact with people and is aloof and cruel and hungry for affection, but they become very close over the course of the novel), and Sebastian Blackwood, a village boy whose family, while not werewolves, has historically served the village’s werewolf protectors in various ways for centuries. Sebastian can do magic and also shapeshifts into a cat, and does a lot of spying for the werewolves? he and Olivia and Olivia’s brother were very close as children, but Olivia’s brother was murdered in a plotty thing along with the former patriarch of the werewolf clan? I JUST KNOW SCRAPS THIS IS WHY THIS NANO FAILED MISERABLY. like, a few weeks before Cilla arrives — FAMILY TRAGEDY AND UPHEAVAL.
also I recently figured out that the villain trying to open the hellgate is from within the family and I DON’T KNOW WHY THEY ARE DOING THIS I FEEL SO BETRAYED I LIKED YOU :( :( :(
you had cute banter with Cilla about T.S. Eliot when I was really reaching desperately for wordcount
I don’t know what your motivation is for killing your family members and opening gates to hell whyyyyyyyyyyy
other problems that keep me from actually writing this story: the werewolf family (STILL) doesn’t have a surname; it stands to reason that if Cilla’s mother was a werewolf Cilla ought to have inherited it but how would she not know her family were werewolves if SHE WERE A WEREWOLF but maybe doing the masquerade plot AGAIN is just stupid (while typing this up I had interesting thoughts about Cilla’s human father trying to raise a werewolf daughter and she knows what she is even though it makes no sense to her? but why would he keep her from her werewolf family? NOTHING MAKES SENSE TO ME).
anyway The Hounds of God is a vintage gothic YA adventure and even though I have not been able to write it AT ALL for TWO YEARS because it is A MESS, I love it to bits.
man i want marwick to be published and marginally successful SOLELY SO THAT I CAN WREAK EMOTIONAL DESTRUCTION ON HAPLESS HUMAN BEINGS AND THEN LAUGH ABOUT IT FROM ON HIGH
the true goal of a writer is not money or fame but WHOLESALE EMOTIONAL WRECKAGE :)
YA FANTASY PROTAGONISTS: CAN WE JUST STOP WANTING ABOVE ALL OTHER THINGS TO BE BLOODY NORMAL??? CAN WE AS A CULTURE JUST GET OVER THIS STUPID, POISONOUS TROPE???
THIS HAS BEEN A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT.
The reason that that appears as a trope in so much YA is that it’s a fairly common young adult experience, rather than vice versa. There’s plenty of YA where protagonists long for the freedom to be different, even in realistic, even banal ways (Keladry of Mindelan being allowed to pursue knighthood through at least theoretically acceptable channels, but still being treated like shit for being a woman in a physically and psychologically demanding, male-oriented field) rather than “omg I want to do magic and be a half-fae half-vampire warrior frost queen”. I agree that the trope that everyone in fantasy hates what makes them special and wishes they could fit some abstract standard for Normal is pretty played out, but it’s such an enforced trope because it is the experience of many young people. It’s possible to love and own your beautiful weirdness, and that’s healthy and good, but protagonists wishing they weren’t a species other than human/a magic-user who can’t necessarily control that/some kind of Chosen One in a way that interferes with their lives? They didn’t choose that weirdness, it may not be a part of their existence they enjoy, and they don’t necessarily need to own it to have it be a good and powerful story rather than an awful poisonous destructive one. Basically YA needs to seriously diversify its standard plots. We could stand to have more protags who love who and what they are, and oppose and overcome those who say they shouldn’t be, but the experience of being deeply ashamed of what you are, or wanting to be normal because it would be more expedient, is very real and it’s worth speaking to. Half the time in YA it’s spoken to out of sheer authorial laziness, though, which does blow.
hmm. I get what you’re saying, and also the post you’re replying to was (probably obviously) a hasty emotion-driven statement without thesis, so the nuances of what I’m especially upset about aren’t there. (this is not me saying “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAAAAND MEEE”, this is me saying “I didn’t say everything that I meant to say in this one post”, just so we’re clear!)
so here are some things about me. I have clinical depression and anxiety and a host of other non-neurotypical brain things that may not fit under any diagnosis (if they have I haven’t found it yet). I know from having often unpleasant, scary weirdness forced upon one’s life. depression is nothing like superpowers (if the ability to become uninterested in ANYTHING, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU PREVIOUSLY LOVED AND WERE INVESTED IN IT, is a superpower, it’s the worst one), and you definitely don’t get any kind of great destiny out of it. in terms of fantasy analogues, I’ve pinged similar kinds of experiences in stories about people finding out they’re not entirely human. not, I make haste to say, being depressed or non-neurotypical makes one any less or more or other than human! but the experience of not seeing or processing things the way most people do is very similar! and how a lot of the seeing-otherly is frightening and unpleasant but sometimes it’s just… you know, it just is. sometimes you’re more frightened of things than other people and sometimes you’re comfortable with things that terrify everyone else. sometimes you’re incapable of looking after yourself and sometimes you can hone in on something or experience wild bursts of joy or — whatever. the experience isn’t the same with any two people. and it’s never all good or all bad, it’s a big messy mixed bag, but the one thing it isn’t, regardless of any choices you might make, is “normal”.
and if, in trying to maintain control over this thing that’s in your life that you can’t remove, you fear and reject every part of it that makes you outwardly abnormal, you’re really screwing yourself over. there is NO GOOD REASON to do this — normal is not moral, a lot of social norms are good but were built for specific types of people and will work oppositely for people whose brains and bodies work in other ways — except for fear of cultural censure. (which is a legitimate fear, but which media and some parts of religion have exaggerated to a disturbing frenzy.)
here’s the thing, though. in my experience, kids don’t really want to be “normal”. they want to find their tribe. they want to know that the things they think and feel and love and are afraid of and want can be sympathised with, helped, accepted, celebrated. the desire to be “normal”, to “fit in”, to be like everyone else is, I think, no more innate to the human condition than the desire to be thin, but because of the way culture and media have conditioned us (and each other), we tend to process our desire to be loved as a desire to be normal. we think if we can get rid of all these bits of ourselves that don’t match up with most other people, then we’ll be the kinds of people that other people will want. only some of us can’t get rid of those pieces (we can start with physical and mental disabilities and the LIST GOES ON FROM THERE), and even the ones we can — sometimes shedding those passions and eccentricities or stifling them deep inside of ourselves when there is nothing bad or harmful or sinful about them is deeply unhealthy and can only lead to profound dissatisfaction in life.
and the media keeps telling us, keeps telling us stories that tell us that this is how it’s done. you can be a little goofy, a little off, but mostly you need to be like everyone else, so that no one has to trouble themselves worrying about whether nor not your differentness is a moral wrongness. (I’m a Christian. I see a lot of suspicion of countercultural practises among fellow churchgoers, who don’t realise that some of the cultural baggage they don’t think twice about — gossip and extreme materialism are big ones — that are “normal” to them, are actually what’s harmful! but because that’s what they’re used to and the other things aren’t, it’s the other things they’re suspicious of.) we buy this without realising it, and we police ourselves and each other, because we think that’s how it’s supposed to go. there’s Normal, where most people go, and then there are a few groups of people who will never quite manage to carve themselves into that shape, and those people will always be outsiders. popular media like Glee claims to celebrate and champion the outsiders and instead is condescending and patronising — oh, sure, we like you, we find your differences ~exciting~ and ~entertaining~ (except the ones that inconvenience us!), but you’ll always be outside the “real world”. thereby alienating just about every single member of any of the outsider groups they claim to support, who came looking for stories about people like them, and found just one more damn place telling them that they’re never going to be part of the same universe as everyone else. that they’re there to be tolerated and fetishised but never understood.
I spent a very lonely and isolated adolescence wanting friends, wanting to find a place where I fit in, but not wanting to have to change myself to do it. (for one thing, my neuroatypicalities make it virtually impossible for me to playact. I can lie, but I can’t be ungenuine for extended periods of time. trying to pretend to be normal and acceptable, to care about things that didn’t matter to me and pretend things that did matter didn’t, for a single hour-long youth group meeting was miserable. but I tried for a while. because I was lonely. only these efforts made me feel more lonely, because I’d left myself.) there was nothing wrong with my desires and passions (and, I might go so far as to say, nothing wrong with my extreme emotionalism and my introverted nature — I have to go out of my way to live my life happily while tending to these parts of my personality, but that’s largely because the culture I live in is STRUCTURED AGAINST MY NATURAL BEHAVIOUR), and yet it seemed like the best I could get was people who liked me in spite of — well, me. they’d laugh fondly when I’d talk excitedly about the dictionary I’d got for Christmas or excused me with “oh, that’s just Jolene, she goes off by herself sometimes” or “she’s broody”, but it was always a sort of setting aside. that’s Jolene, she’s not like people, but she’s okay when she’s not being like that. they meant to be kind! truly, most of them did! but Normal was so branded in their minds that they didn’t comprehend that it didn’t encompass everyone, didn’t need to.
so I’d like to see — I might even be bold enough to say I feel that young adult literature HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO TELL — more stories about kids and teens who, yes, struggle with a feeling of outsidership because they don’t think like other people, because their family isn’t structured or doesn’t behave like dictionary-definition families are meant to, because they’re DIFFERENT, but they don’t want to just be NORMAL and ACCEPTABLE to EVERYONE. they want someone to tell them, you’re okay. and: I love you. and: I can help you with the parts that hurt. there are people like you. you’re not alone. you don’t have to hide or pretend that your flaws don’t exist — I am here to help you shape your flaws and yourself into a you that’s happy and fulfilled. and even: I don’t think like that, I don’t like that, but it’s wonderful that you do.
because, let’s be honest. there’s right and wrong and an awful lot of grey area, but “normal”? that’s at its core an ugly lie.
nissanissas replied to your post: i. because autumn’s coming, probably, I’m really…
jo i love you
it’s occurred to me recently that I have been writing this novel for you THE WHOLE TIME and I didn’t even know you any of the time I’ve been actively working on it.
(amoral teenage sorcerer who spent years learning very unhealthy magics in the vampires’ underground city as the consort of a vampire Fairy Queen archetype, realises he is in over his head but can’t get out, is “rescued” and subsequently blackmailed by the government who won’t destroy him for having fraternised with vampires and learning illegal black magic if he remains at their beck and call, spends years masquerading as a mild-mannered librarian with basically no friends who patently refuses to do any magic other than the everyday things everyone does because if he loses his emotional or magical control he could accidentally kill everyone — except sometimes the Paranormal Division pulls him back in and he can’t refuse and when he returns from these missions he has to spend days psychologically cleansing himself before he considers himself safe again; falls in love with the ladysword protagonist (YEAH UH) who happens to be his assistant librarian and keeps that firmly locked down as well until the government finds out about her magical vampire-destroying abilities and blackmails him into Bringing Her In and Making Her Their Weapon To Save All Of England From The Vampires and there’s vampire slaying lessons and folklore and eventually Rebelling Against Being Chess Pieces and Evangeline destroying Rue’s emotional control by refusing to accept his martyrdom complex and pulling him into her close-knit family
also somehow all of this is exacerbated by Vampire Fairy Queen He Used To Have Sex With wanting him back… as a magical tithe to hell… (my plot’s hazy)
and it ends up as an explicit Tam-Lin retelling because this is me.
I am gonna have to do so much internalising of pre-WWI political tensions research and then actual-WWI research for the sequel (trenches and WEREWOLF TERRORISM) and alternate history sensemaking and DEEPLY UNDERSTANDING LONDON because it’s a city-as-character piece because OF COURSE IT IS and this is why I am not going to be able to write this for a very long time
NOW THAT I WROTE ALL OF THIS I MISS THIS STUPID DUOLOGY EVEN MORE NOOOOOO
i. because autumn’s coming, probably, I’m really missing The Novel, the one I’m not good enough to try to write yet, and thinking about it a lot RUE AND EVY I MISS YOU I’M SORRY I’LL COME BACK WHEN I CAN DO YOU JUSTICE.
ii. it’s HILARIOUS to me how a significant amount of what’s in what I write is me being mad at other things not going my way. like, Lottie/Mal is me making the badwrong protagonist/antagonist inhuman ship FREAKING CANON and also me exercising some of my frustrations with YA paranormal romances (MAL: NOT INEXPLICABLY DISGUISED AS A TEENAGE BOY also the power imbalance and line-crossings are neither erased nor played without discussion for ~atmosphere~ but discussed and worked with because RELATIONSHIPS ARE MESSY AND NOT BEING HUMAN IS MESSY AND EVERYTHING’S MORE INTERESTING WHEN YOU EXAMINE IT)
but also with regards to The Novel Rue Caruthers is the embodiment of a lifetime of always falling for the character type who always dies in the end. I AM GOING TO WRITE THIS CHARACTER, DAMMIT, AND I AM NOT GOING TO KILL HIM AT THE END; DAMAGED PEOPLE WHO DO NOT THINK THEY CAN EVER BE GOOD BUT NEED TO TRY ANYWAY DO NOT ALWAYS HAVE TO DO SO BY BECOMING DEAD!!!!!!!!
…this is a sensitive topic okay my heart is very fragile.
I’m going to talk to you about Reading. I know, I know—you’re (probably) not in school right now, or haven’t been in years, and either way literature is not for your off hours. But I already have your brain translating letters into words and sentences and paragraphs in your head, so I say we just keep going with it. Namely, I want to talk to you about fiction, which, given that tumblr is all fandom all the time, I think is a fair subject. And within that, I want to about images, and the color of those blue curtains and red apples in our books, things that some folks say mean nothing. Our teachers may insist that those blue curtains mean solitude, or red apples mean sexuality, lust, temptation, but I mean, I’ve had a lot of red apples, and I don’t think they’re very sexy.
Maybe you’ve even seen the posts going around tumblr that inspired this one. The ones complaining about how a book contains a minor detail—an apple being bitten, blue curtains wafting in the breeze—and a teacher proceeds to launch into a convoluted, overzealous explanation of the SIGNIFICANCE and the SYMBOLISM, practically frothing at the mouth as the student looks on in horror and amusement. Mostly horror; amusement would imply it being enjoyable, and I don’t imagine you find it very enjoyable if you think people are assigning undue weight to a fruit basket.
Those wacky teachers, trying to convince us that the people who write enduring literature spent hours choosing EVERY WORD and EVERY IMAGE. No one does that, no matter how genius they are! I actually won’t spend time contesting this point, because it’s an unverifiable hypothesis—my question to you is rather: so what?
This got long, so it’s going to be in several parts. Sorry.