Thursday, July 04, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

John here. Happy 4th of July to everyone.

It's a crazy summer in the Corrigan household. Our possessions are in three PODs in Connecticut awaiting pickup and delivery to Gill, Mass., where we will move Aug. 1. I'm writing a lot, teaching English for non-native speakers at the Exeter Summer School in New Hampshire, and trying to get to Maine as often as possible.

On the writing front, I've been considering as issue with which many writers struggle: whether or not to outline. Almost 15 years ago, I outlined my first novel. Then, after two years as a newspaper reporter, I went off to my MFA program in the early ’90s and discovered it was considered less artistic somehow if you outlined your books. I hadn't stuck to that original outline very much, anyhow, so for the next decade I wandered my way through the dark forests of five plots.

I teach writing to high school students; previously, I taught writing to college students. In my teaching, I often stress discovering one's own prewriting routine, including – if it works for you – beginning with a scratch outline.

Two years ago, at Sleuth Fest, Jeffrey Deaver gave a keynote address and spoke of having a business  model, urging writers to get one – to have a plan. "Shakespeare had a business model," Deaver said. And, of course, he was right. Shakespeare knew what he had to do to make a go of the Globe Theatre. Part of that was writing prolifically.

I just hit page 125 of my current novel, and I'm trying something new: I stopped and spent three days creating an outline (well, "outline" might be too strong a word; I wrote a five-page plot synopsis). I feel more relaxed immediately. I know the ending of the novel. Usually, I enjoy the thrill of reading the book as I write it and learning the end maybe 30 pages ahead of the reader. This is different, but I'm hoping the result is a tighter manuscript.

We'll see. If nothing else, it's why I love writing – you never master the craft, and you never stop trying to find ways to get better.

Happy 4th of July!

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm a pantser but I'm going to try outlining the new book first. A least that will tell me what I need to know more about.