Almost Outlined: Working Past Mental Bottlenecking to Create a Killer Book Outline

Say your novel-to-be is about rock and roll—that much is clear—and you’re ready to outline. Or rather, ready or not, you need to outline. You sit down to your spreadsheet, blank Word doc, legal pad, or multicolored sticky notes, your head abuzz with story impressions: the thudding loudness and in-your-faceness of rock’s heyday; the rock modernists; some patchy character profiles; a main plot, three subplots, and fifteen mini plots; this idea you have to score some original rock tuneage and include it in the book—your music actually telling part of the story (not sure how—will figure out as you outline); this other idea you have to represent the dissent that frequently breaks up bands by telling your story not just in alternating narrative voices but alternating POVs; and . . . and . . . and . . .

By the time you’ve wrangled all your potential storytelling elements into focus, you’ll likely have not only scared yourself out of writing word one of your outline but also decided that you and three to four of your friends are the rightful heirs to Deep Purple and what the hell are you doing trying to make a book when you could be making music. And, hey, if that’s your route, go for it. The kids these day need good music.

deep_purple_1971
“Hush” is not a personal instruction. It doesn’t pertain to your writing. Outline on.

They also need good books. And if you intend to actually write, rather than think endlessly and vaguely about, one, you need to free yourself from the trap of trying to all-at-once decide how to handle characterization, plot, structure, POV, voice, style, and whether or not to include an original score.

Continue reading “Almost Outlined: Working Past Mental Bottlenecking to Create a Killer Book Outline”

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This Is Not for You: A Defense of Second-Person Narration

My name is Hannah, and although I didn’t begin this post writing “your name is Hannah,” I freely admit to (at least sometimes) liking second-person narration. While it may be a little too dramatic to call second person the dark alley of literary writing, it is a place where most modern-day writers of good repute don’t want to be found wandering—and not just for fear of running into whatever sketchy patrons may be lingering there.

Second person has many detractors for many legitimate reasons. Some acquisition editors of literary magazines mention receiving such an onslaught of present-tense second-person short stories that it becomes a “one more and my head is gonna blow” sort of scenario. I’ve heard the argument that use of this POV comes across as trying to strong-arm the reader into the action of the story instead of relying on subtler fundamental storytelling tactics to accomplish the same thing.

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