Friday, January 27, 2006

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‑ 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 it winter, or is it spring?)

All my best, Loree


Anonymous said...

You don't know everything about everything. You just THINK you do.

Chuck said...

Loree is my big sister and as a matter of fact she does know everything!! Well, not everything, but she knows how to write everything from novels to newspaper columns and how to get paid for her skills. Sounds like this "anonymous" may have frustration issues due to life failures.

Phil Goodrich said...

Loree is by far one of the most gifted writers and teachers I have had the pleasure of knowing. In the many years I've known her, she has never been anything but generous of talent and spirit. Sounds to me like "Anonymous" is one of those wanna-be writers who has a wide Envy Streak running down her back.

Marian Lerner said...

Anonymous obviously doesn't know Loree very well. She may not know everything, but then, she never claimed that she did, but she sure knows a lot more about writing and getting published than most people I know.

My advice to Anonymous is, put your energies into being the kind of person Loree is and your envy will disappear.

You go, Loree!

J. Donald Campbell said...

Hi Loree! Long time since I took your class at HHC. I've taken a few others since then, and I must say, none have provided the kind of how-to-sell information yours did. Plus, the instructors all want to get paid for critiquing students manuscripts. You are a rare gem, for sure!

I might be out of the country in September when your Leading Edge workshop takes place. If so, I will sign up for the November workshop. I sold the book you critiqued last year, and will send you a copy as soon as it's out. [I owe you big time, little lady!]

I am outlining a new story that I'd like to work on with you. Your workshop will fill the bill.

Looking forward to seeing you again.


Jed Price said...

Dear Loree:

Great tips. You can bet I'll be back to learn more.

Looking forward to your September workshop.

Jed Price

Barbara Kay said...

hahaha to the fool who said you don't know everything about everything. When it comes to writing, you know more than anybody I know. AND you are more willing to share what you know than anybody I know, too. (Name one other published author with your long list of credentials who is willing to read a "newbie's" manuscript for free!)

I know plenty of authors, has-beens mostly, who charge to edit, and although I've handed over more than my share of money to them, not one of them comes close to you when it comes to critiquing, editing, and career guidance.

Thank you, Loree, for being you.

Barbie Kay

Bill Stern said...

Once again, Ms. Lough, you have supplied solid, useful advice. I have a question for you:

When submitting non-agented materials to editors, will I receive the same treatment as if I had a paid representative? I know you have sold all 53 of your books without an agent. Do you believe if you had an agent you would have had more sales, or gotten paid better?

I hope to read your answers in article form very soon, for I am preparing to submit a novel for publication in the very near future.

Bill Stern

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