IMPORTANCE OF QUESTIONS: If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. If you want something, then ask because “no” is the worse thing that can happen. Ask directions or you may never get there.
Last week an author friend asked me the eternal question most authors hear at some point in their career: Do I outline my book before writing it?
My first book, The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur, took me ten years to complete. I had not outlined it. I started with an idea, then wrote. Then rewrote, then rewrote, then–you get the picture. Many helped me along the way because I definitely needed directions. In spite of my ignorance, my persistent learning, rewriting, and a positive attitude took me over the finish line. This first novel (2016) won awards, praises, and a Kirkus, starred review.
My second book, The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker, simmered in my mind while writing the first book, but the actual writing of this second book only took about a year and a half to complete. I used a different writing strategy.
My friend’s question about outlining surprised me. What I do now works much better than when I started using only some vague idea. Still, I had to take a minute to consider her question.
When I think of outlining, I think of my ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Tweed, who taught me the sixteen uses of a noun, how to diagram sentences, and how to love Shakespeare. So, no. I don’t outline as per Mrs. Tweed.
Like the second book, I know where this book starts, where it will end, and major plot points along the way. However, there is something major I don’t know about this story, and I’m half-way through my first rough draft. I know where my characters are emotional at the beginning of the story, I know the physical actions that will happen, and I’ve selected the locations to be used throughout the story. Yet, I do not know how the emotional tones and nuances of my characters will develop as they travel though this tale. They’ll learn important life lessons, but when I’m writing, I have to let them tell me what causes them to change.
In the The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur, the chain-smoking flapper is in her nineties. The second book, The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker, starts off when the flapper, a naive teenager, runs away to Chicago in 1923. This third book, working title, The Flapper, the Swashbucklers, and the Priestess. is a story told in the Caribbean where the adult flapper loved, played, and lived. The woman scientist, from the first book, takes her husband on a much needed dream vacation and becomes obsessed with knowing about the flapper’s life in the Caribbean. Because of the scientist’s persistent questions, their vacation turns into a nightmare.
CORRECTION ABOUT QUESTIONS: “No” isn’t the worse thing that can happen when you ask questions. Please don’t let your questions get you murdered.
However, you may ask me any question you like. I promise you and no animals will be harmed when I answer.