Outlining Explained for the Non-Writer

I mentioned I was going to start trying to outline a little more, see if that counteracts the brain fog Lyrica causes.  First, let me explain a bit about how I write, because it will explain why the Lyrica is such a problem that I’m trying outlining.

There are basically two kinds of writers: Pantsers and planners.  I’m a pantser.  I get an idea, I sit down at my computer, put my fingers on the keyboard and away we go.  When the ideas are flowing this means I may write for three or four hours before I take my fingers from the keyboard.  And it means I might be doing the pee-pee dance in my chair, because stopping to empty my bladder is distracting.  It also means that if the writing is flowing, I miss meals.  I miss text messages and phone calls, because I often put my cell phone on do not disturb when I’m writing.

This hyper focus is how I write entire novels in just 7 days.  It works for me.  My favorite books ever have been created via the hyperfocus I can achieve while pantsing it.  These include Fortified DreamsDark Resurrections, The Dysfunctional Affair – the original, the novel, not the novella, Demonic Dreams, and Natural Born Exorcist.  Most of these books were written before Lyrica entered my life.  And while I love Demonic and Natural Born Exorcist (NBE), I had to fix them after I was done writing them.  I’m not talking got the first draft written and need to polish it up.  I’m talking dropped plot lines, which isn’t something I’ve had a lot of experience with, it’s a new thing and a side effect of the medications I must take for my CRPS.  And I’m sure the CRPS plays some role as well.

Now, Demonic didn’t have a huge mystery, they aren’t those types of books, so how did I drop a plot line?  I forgot to talk about the rest of the team and what they were doing while Ace and Gabriel were trying to decide what to do about Raphael.  Which was kind of strange.  I mean the book itself was strange because the ensemble wasn’t there.  But I had thoughts about different chapters to replace the killer’s chapters that just didn’t happen because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing with them.  In NBE it was the ending.  I had a grand ending planned.  I forgot what it was.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m satisfied with the ending it has, but I know I had something different planned.  The final cemetery scene was supposed to be different, somehow, but I can’t remember how.

This writing method is why when people ask me how I came up with ideas, I struggle with an answer.  I don’t know.  I sit.  I type.  The ideas come like tidal flooding.  They aren’t something I control very well.  And quite often, it’s flood or drought with my writing style and it isn’t something I can force very well.

Okay, so outlining for me.  There are a ton of outlining methods some with weird names that make sense once you get into the outlining.  One of my college creative writing classes focused on the methods of outlining and we made all sorts of outlines.  Like one of our projects was to outline a short story (no more than 15,000 words long) using post it notes on poster board.  Blech.  During one of the outlining projects using the snowflake method, my professor and I had a long talk because I didn’t understand why everyone else was in love with these outlining methods and I wanted nothing to do with it.  And we were spending weeks on these stupid outlining method projects.  I hated it.  So he and I had a discussion one day about why I hated them, because I didn’t know why I was developing a patholical hate for outlines.

He explained it was basically the difference between Stephen King and James Patterson.  King is a pantser.  Patterson does extremely detailed outlines, which is how Patterson manages to outsource his books (co-writing them with other authors).  And we spent an hour talking about something he called a rough outline.  A rough outline is exactly what it sounds like: you put the plot, the beginning, and if you know it; the end, and a handful of bullet points that are ides that have to go into the story.  You don’t do a chapter by chapter “this is what should happen in chapter 10” like you do with a lot of outlines.

I did okay with rough outlines and have used them a few times over the years when I’ve had things that I knew needed to happen to move the book along.  So I am doing rough outlines.  They don’t tell me what’s supposed to happen in chapter 10.  They tell me the plot, the key points I need to get to the end, and maybe a few ideas I had that I want to work in.  Like the angel quota comment in NBE.  I thought of that late one night while lying in bed trying to sleep.  So I broke out my phone, wrote the idea down, and then finally managed to sleep.

Before phones, I used to keep a small notebook beside the bed for those midnight ideas.  And there were times that at 2 in the morning, as my brain was trying to settle into sleep, I had to grab the notebook and write down a rough outline for a book.  Dark Resurrections was outlined this way in the middle of the night, in the dark on my phone.  As was NBE to some degree.  Although, I didn’t write down the ending for it and I should have obviously.  But after the first day of writing on NBE, I went to bed, my head still composing the novel as I tried to sleep and sure enough, at 2 am, I ended up outlining it for the next day.  And away I went with it.  Finishing it in just 7 days.

So what does this have to do with Lyrica?  If you’ve seen the movie Up with the dog who has a thought translator, I can explain it like that.  I’m the dog.  One moment I will be thinking of one thing let’s say the chapter of a book and then it’s like “Squirrel!” and my concentration is shot and I have to reread huge sections to figure out where I was going, but even then, the original thoughts are gone, sucked into the Lyrica ethereal plane.

I am hoping the outline, which I have stuck to the wall above my laptop helps keep “Squirrel!” from happening or at least cuts down on how often it happens.  My brain has always been a bit scattered, but it has never been this bad.  It often switches topics mid thought and then forgets to return to it.  Another thing I hope the outlines combat.  And something happened the other day that helps highlight the difficulties of life on Lyrica.  I drink a lot of fluids during a day, so I am a prolific urinator, I know, TMI, but it serves a purpose.  I went to empty my bladder, and then got distracted by a text message while I was in the middle of my task and forgot I was sitting on the toilet and was done.  I think I sat there for a good three or four minutes trying to remember what I was doing.  How does one forget that?!  Yep, that is what I am battling and a big part of the reason, I am trying outlining.


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