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Jay Lake
Date: 2011-10-04 05:51
Subject: [process] A bit more on outlining
Security: Public
Tags:books, calamity, flowers, process, sunspin, writing

Later this week, I’ll be playing again with the outline for my proposed urban fantasy joint project with J.A. Pitts. I can already see how my work on Sunspin has affected my process. At the moment the outline has about two pages of synoptic text outlining the opening of act one of the novel, three pages of notes to be expanded into further synoptic text, and a five page essay on a key aspect of the world building for this. Which seems a little lopsided somehow. It will be fixed.

At the same time, I’ve been talking to my dad about Sunspin. He just finished reading the first 2/3 of Calamity of So Long A Life. One of his basic comments was that I should find a way to embed more background into the beginning of Calamity. Given that the outline of Sunspin has 100 pages of background essays, character lists, ship lists and whatnot even before I reach the 30 or so pages of synoptic outline, not to mention about 60,000 words of published backstory, this is theory possible. I don’t see a practical way to do it, however.

Contrast with Trial of Flowers, which I sold from a five-paragraph outline and wrote accordingly. My ratio of outline to finished words on that novel was about 1:300. Almost the entire novel fit on one page in outline form. In Calamity it’s closer to 1:75. Which is to say each page of the synoptic outline expands to almost 20,000 words.

Does this mean anything? Casually speaking, it indicates the depth of my thinking is changing. Is this a net benefit? Almost certainly, though Calamity of So Long a Life is only now in my agent’s hands, and has not yet been seen by any acquiring editor, so the proof has yet to be baked into the pudding. And in a detailed sense, it will probably be years before I have a decent, conscious handle on what these ongoing changes in my outlining process mean. Right now I’m just following my muse.

How has your outlining process evolved? Or is it a set and steady process for you?

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

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Oz Whiston writing as Oz Drummond
User: birdhousefrog
Date: 2011-10-04 12:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
How are you using the word "synoptic" in this context? I'm familiar with the greek root meaning and I'm familiar with Synoptics in Meteorology (being a weather wife) where the field of Synoptics (as opposed to Dynamics) is the science (and art) of preparing weather forecasts from weather observations.

Curious as to what a "synoptic outline" is. Or "synoptic text."

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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-10-04 13:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In the sense of a movie synposis, where the story is told in a highly condensed version. ie:

"BILBO BAGGINS is a hobbit who lives in a hole in the ground. He is visited by his old friend GANDALF THE GREY, who introduces him to a party of dwarves. Against his better judgment, Bilbo allows himself to be dragged off on an adventure to recover the dwarves' lost treasure from SMAUG, a dragon. On their cross-country trek to the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo and dwarves encounter three trolls in the wild."

Et cetera.

In other words, a narrative outline instead of a bulleted or otherwise structured outline.
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Oz Whiston writing as Oz Drummond
User: birdhousefrog
Date: 2011-10-04 13:32 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And doesn't that show how long I've been married to a weatherman (30 years)? I'm more familiar with the 4th Webster definition than the 1st. Thanks.
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Jay Lake: graffiti-panda
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-10-04 13:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The Law of the Tool strikes again!
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User: fledgist
Date: 2011-10-05 15:20 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I rather like the metathesis there, which rather suggests they're all sitting down.
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