I’m really digging the new digs. Okay, not exactly new digs, but a total rearrangement of my writing space. Studio. The fold top desk, the hanging herons, the hot tamales dispenser… it works.
What I’m not digging is the realization that I do actually have to have an outline to write a coherent story of any length. Apparently I’m not one of the .000003% who can fake it. Fortunately, that realization came with an understanding of why I need to outline.
Random. More specifically, to not be random. I can write all day long adding things that “could be this or that.” Without an outline I rarely deliver on the promise (potential) and I end up with just a bunch of things loosely drawn together by a main character or two. Sort of like a J.J. Abrams TV show.
The brilliant script I’d reached Fade Out on just days ago proved it – my first reader went through it and said, “This is not what you said it would be. And there are huge holes in it.” She was right. I’d strayed and skipped. That’s fine if your name is Alice or Pollyanna, but not if you’re trying to write the next “Usual Suspects” or “Training Day.”
So I dove into my new outlining/organizing app and started working. It’s a lot of work, working. I realized how much I didn’t know about my story and characters. So I looked for a distraction and found it in a contest. I wrote 13 pages in a different story and said, “Hey – what do you think of this?”
She said, “I think you need to finish something.” I do. But not just finish, finish it well. Those 13 pages were filled with promises, a bit of humor, and a story --- though not a complete story. Except for the main character, it was just a lot of “he could be this, she could be that” and a few random events that moved the feeling along, but not a coherent plot.
That was the epiphany. It’s not just about competent writing with a few hooks. It’s about telling a story. A story that must be told. A story you absolutely want to hear/see/read.
So I’m outlining. I’m plotting. I’m tracking the rising and falling conflict of my subplots. I’m “breaking” the story which is what I should have done before I ever typed fade in.