Sunday, 8 April 2018

Outlines by Keren David

This week I did something I always do when a book is published. I moved the folder for Stranger (Out now! Buy it here!) from my 'Active Projects' folder, to the one marked 'Books Published'. 

I always have mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, pride, satisfaction  and overwhelming relief. On the other, a certain sadness and emptiness. Those characters are gone, their story is over. What comes next?

My Active Projects folder is looking a little empty, to be honest. I have another book in there -  but it's more or less finished. And there's the script for the musical version of Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, but the version we're working on is pretty much done too (for the moment, no doubt new rewrites are just around the corner.)

My next job will be thinking of new projects and writing outlines, in the hope that I can secure a publishing deal without actually having to write the whole thing. (One reason that Stranger took so long is that all the editors who liked it wanted to see a whole manuscript. I kept on having to break off from writing that full version to write things for which I had contracts. So it took six years, by which time every editor who had requested the full manuscript had moved on.)  

The only problem is that I hate outlines. I hate them even worse than I hate synopses. The truth is, that I know very little about a book when I start writing it. I have some ideas - characters if I'm lucky -  but mostly I want to work on voice, rather than plot. I know that if the ideas and characters are good enough then the plot will follow, but how can I convey that in an outline?

Sometimes I do it with lots of questions. What will happen? I ask, without providing the answer. Or sometimes I make up a skeleton plot...which I never look at again. Really, I want to say to my editors, trust me. I can make this work. Just give me some money, and time, and leave me to it.

But no, an outline is required. And very often a few chapters as well (those are easier). So I've gone back to an exercise that I did on the Writing for Children course at City University (now, weirdly renamed as City, University of London) with the wonderful teacher Amanda Swift.

She got us to write the strapline and blurb for our books -  before we'd written a word of it. And this, I now realise, is a very sensible way of starting out. Expand it, little by little, and an outline will emerge. 

But...will I stick to it? No promises. 

1 comment:

Rowena House said...

Wise words. You're so much more experienced than me but every one resonated.