Here it is, the end of yet another week...bringing January to a close in merry old Maryland. My biggest complaint this month isn't with January, but with Mother Nature: Choose a season and stick with it, y'loony ol' bat, cuz this see-sawing from Winter to Spring is driving me (and my crocuses) nuts!
In all fairness to Ma Nature, she's been around a while. Maybe menopause has set in, and the crazy mood swings are hot flash-related? If that's the case, what she needs, I think, is a plan. A list of sorts she can stick to, regardless of her temperament at any given moment. An outline even, that'll help her focus on what she should do instead of what she feels like doing....
So the question is:
The Lough Down: To Outline or Not...?
by Loree Lough
Q: I just finished my second book, and have started a third (none yet sold). I had to totally re‑write the first book...twice! Published author friends say it's because I don't use an outline. I don't want to go through all those rewrites again, but I'm afraid a formal outline will inhibit my creativity. Besides, I've heard that successful authors like Nora Roberts don't outline, so why should I?
A. People who know me well call me a hard worker; "'Loree' and 'lazy' don't belong in the same sentence," they say. Maybe that's cuz, even when they stop by unannounced, my house is spic‑n‑span, the laundry and dishes are done, the spice racks and pantry are alphabetized, and the clothes in my closet hang in color‑order...by sleeve and hem length.
Before you sharpen the blade on your guillotine, allow me to make a confession: I'm the laziest person I know. Those 'neat house' things? They’re the direct result of—you guessed it—outlining.
I make an outline before leaving for the grocery store, an outline for annual, monthly, daily goals. Some might call them 'to-do lists' (to which I say pah‑tah‑toe), but outlines are what keep me organized, and being organized is what allows me to park my lazy butt, guilt free at the end of the day, and do, well, whatever my lazy butt wants to do!
For example, I outlined every one of the more than 2,000 articles and 49 short stories I’ve had published. I outline lesson plans for college and Writer’s Digest online writing classes. Speeches on writing‑related topics are (you guessed it) outlined. Each of my published romances were written after I'd completed (a‑yup!) an outline. Far from inhibiting creativity, outlines free me up to tell believable stories without fear of sagging spots, uncharacteristic dialog, anything that might cost me time consuming re‑writes.
As for your Nora Roberts comment?
Even writers who don't create formal outlines make outlines. But they're the natural‑born storytellers we all aspire to become; they know, instinctively, what belongs in a novel…and what does not. Like fine chefs, they know exactly when to add a pinch of tension, a dash of conflict, when to turn up the fire, when to let a story simmer. Maybe years of experience is their secret ingredient. Perhaps natural talent is their trademark 'spice'. Possibly, delectable stories are the result of seasoning and a God‑given gift.
Okay, so I’ve earned dozens of industry and readers’ choice awards for the 50-some books in print, but until I've see hundreds of my books on the shelves, I'm gonna keep right on a‑doin' what I’ve been a-doin’, cuz it works for me.
Because let's face it...
...there’s only ONE Nora Roberts.
So that's it for today, kiddos. Now, search your mind for a question, a comment (disagree with me if you must!), a suggestion for others reading this column.
Until next time, here's me...wishing you a wonderful weekend (while hoping Mother Nature gets her act together and decides...is it winter, or is it spring?)
All my best, Loree