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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-09-05 07:29
Subject: [process] Minor note on Sunspin and outlines
Security: Public
Tags:books, calamity, process, sunspin, whips, writing

Still closing in on the end of Calamity of So Long a Life, a/k/a Sunspin volume one. A pair of little process data points have made themselves known to me over the past couple of days. I thought I’d share in the spirit of writerly fellowship, and not suffering alone.

1) When writing a trilogy as one single plot arc, in effect one giant 600,000 word book, the muddle in the middle phenomenon can in fact take place at the end of what is functionally the first book. This may be the first time I’ve ever finished drafting a novel (and this is my eighteenth novel written) where I’ve reached the very end with that slightly confused and disappointed feeling. Normally books wrap up for me with a swift downhill haul and Fred, my inner writer mind, shouting “Wheeee!!!!”. This ought to make the second book entertaining, and suggests an epic finish for the third.

2) Per above, my relationship with the outline isn’t what it normally would be. Yesterday I finished a scene where Maduabuchi St. Macaria and Freddie Tavares are about to meet for the first time about halfway through what the outline called for at the end of Calamity. (Having just written not one but two shuttle crashes, gunfire, near-drowning, and bureaucratic snark. How much better can it get?) I realized I need to push the balance of the scene into book two, The Whips and Scorns of Time, so that these two character threads end on an appropriate note of tension and ill-resolution at the end of Calamity. See above re how I normally approach the ending of novels. At the moment I’m having a bad case of outline interruptus, which is sort of like that guilty tingling if you don’t wash your hands after you pee.

This trilogy thing is harder than it looks.

(You do wash your hands after you pee, right?)

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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Fluttering Things: chicks dig geeks
User: moxie_raqs
Date: 2011-09-05 17:18 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:chicks dig geeks
I <3 you.
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fledgist
User: fledgist
Date: 2011-09-05 18:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
When you write something that long, do you outline in stages (i.e., do you write a short outline, then a longer, more detailed, one) before you start to write the novel?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-09-05 18:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
No, I still pretty much use a synoptic outline where a page (ca. 250 words) stands in for 5,000 to 10,000 or so words of final text. Sometimes I'll have a very short pitch type statement prior to the synoptic outline, but that's about it for staging.
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fledgist
User: fledgist
Date: 2011-09-05 19:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That sounds like a pretty thorough and detailed degree of outlining to me. I had wondered if you moved from sketchy outline to detailed outline to final text. The text filling in the outline, with chopping and changing as needed, when the story gained its own life.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-09-05 19:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, and I tell a bit of a lie here. On Sunspin I have taken to cutting and pasting the synoptic outline into a scene-by-scene skeleton before I write, which does generate something more closely resembling that intermediate step of a more detailed outline. And yes, that's where the story starts to gain its own life.
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Renegade Vagabond: Louis
User: khaybee
Date: 2011-09-05 21:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Louis
I loved the bit you sent me. I think this is a great fun book.
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