A lot of people view outlines as rigid, immovable objects that restrict their creative freedom or something to be afraid of. I take a much more fluid view of them. In my mind an outline is how things fit together, at the moment. They can and do change constantly whenever they need to, and that’s ok. Making changes to an existing outline has its limits though. Sometimes you need to just start a fresh outline from scratch so you can focus on picking out the good pieces from the previous version and adding in the new stuff without all the old stuff cluttering the space around it. That’s ok too. You know more now about your story now than you did when you started your previous outline. As you find out more about your story, your outline should change to reflect that new knowledge. This can be anything from adding or changing characters and events to a reordering of chapters. Each time you get closer to the final version.Continue reading
After a long break I’m finally back to writing somewhat consistently, getting at least one day per week where I get stuff done. Right now I’m about 75% through the high-level outline for my next book The Gray Shift. I thought it would be fun to share how I’m trying to outline this book. Continue reading
One of the fun parts about self-publishing your own book is making your own cover art! I’ve dabbled in artsy stuff my whole life and my books are a fun way to go from amateur to semi-pro artist once in a while. The Full Coverage cover art changed pretty dramatically over the 6 months I was working on it. Below you can see a gallery of the evolution of the cover and if you click on each thumbnail you’ll see more info about each one. Enjoy!
A while ago I posted a deleted scene that was my “Michael Bay” moment. It was a scene filled to the brim with action and sounded like it would have looked really cool, but it raised no stakes and had no lasting consequences on the characters or the story. One article I found a while ago that helped convince me to cut that scene and write better replacement ones is this article from iO9 called “Why You Should Never Write Action Scenes For Your Blockbuster Movie”. It goes into just enough detail and gives some good examples to help you tell if you are making a kick-ass plot driving Matrix style action scene, or a time wasting pointless Matrix: Reloaded action scene. This part in particular makes things very clear:
The second big action sequence: rescuing Morpheus. The choices Neo makes and abilites he shows actually evolve the story and his character. He’s learning about the nature of the world. Learning to sacrifice. Going from a watcher to a participant. The action is simply the lens through which we see this growth — the visually arresting, badass lens. This sequence is particularly noteworthy, as you can actually track its internal three-act progression of Neo quite clearly.
“I may not be the One, but I’m going to help my guy.”
“You moved like they do.”
“Holy shit, he is the One.”
I’m starting to plot out my next book and now that I know these things beforehand, I hopefully won’t waste as much time writing chapters that will just wind up getting cut out completely.
When I was first outlining Full Coverage, my original idea was to make Kyle a total asshole in order to show how when compared to an insurance company even a total asshole like Kyle seemed like a good guy. This was not a good idea. Writing a book filled with nothing but self-centered assholes isn’t very fun and it wouldn’t have been fun to read either. It’s like watching a sporting event between two teams you hate. The only thing you can root for are injuries and maybe a meteor.
This led me to put a note in my OneNote outline sheet saying: Error on the side of FUN. If it isn’t fun to write it won’t be FUN to READ!
Even with this new focus on making things fun, my early readers consistently told me that I needed to make Kyle more likable. While doing some research on how to do that, I found this article called: Of Assholes and Antiheroes: Morality in ‘Borderlands 2 over at popmatters. It’s a really neat analysis comparing Max Payne (antihero), Kratos (asshole), the Vault Hunters (antiheros) and Handsome Jack (asshole). Sure it’s about video games and not books, but the idea is the same. Continue reading