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O is for Outline

Planner v. pantser. To outline, or to wing it. The eternal argument. Obviously, considering the title of this entry, I lean toward planning, if not necessarily outlining.

Usually, our projects start with an idea. A concept. The stories themselves are character-driven, but we generally have a skeleton of what will happen and how a story will end. Sometimes less so. With Luck for Hire, we had the concept, the character, and high-jinx. The plot ironed out as we worked.

In a collaborative relationship, details need to be coordinated to some extent. On one hand, the whole process seems to work better the longer Eric and I talk about the minutia of a scene. When I wander too far off the path, I’m moving away from my plotter’s view of the story and often away from the story itself. In the Weordan books, a misplaced detail could throw the world-building off kilter. On the other hand, occasionally interesting things happen when I go "off-script." There’s the infamous (to Eric and me, at least) tinder box in Lucinda in the Window, and the character of Balito in the book that would become Divine Fire. In the former, I planted a plot device that I had no plan for and Eric had to work out its purpose. In the later, I created a character to do a job and he became an intricate part of what needed to occur.

As with just about everything in writing, there’s no one right way of doing anything. The process varies from person to person and even project to project. I think the best rule of thumb when planning stories is to be flexible. It’s easy to spend a tremendous amount of time planning and never get to writing. And vice versa. Sometimes, it’s so good to just write that the tale gets lost.