Thursday, May 13, 2010

Outlining & How my WIP is like my Closet

I know, I know, not everyone starts with an outline.   I try to start one.  Then, I write and the plot-line meanders down paths the characters have devised over my strongest protests.  No matter, I go back to the drawing board and try to hem in my ambling prose. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

But if it doesn't work on the first go-around, it can be good to construct an outline during the revisions.   This can help tell you where to cut.  When I'm critiquing i don't like to tell others where to cut out characters, scenes and the like.  As a writer, I wrestle over what to cut.  I'm not good at it.

I think my manuscript looks like my closet. In my closet I have a plum-purple H&M dress--very trendy and "this season," but I also have work-casual, "I bought it at Ross" red dress, bohemian skirts that belong in a 2002 catalogue, an ao dai, a kimono, a marroon velvet early-ninetees hand-me-down and my High School prom dresses --one 10 yrs old and the other 9 years old.   Obviously, there are pieces in that list that have hung in my closet with barely any use in ten years (the ao dai, which I would never dream of getting rid of, was a 16th birthday present) but are full of sentimentality.   My closet is not being well tended. My passion for dressing up has conquered two double-wide closets.

The next step is trimming down to function.  I can make an argument for some of the sentimental outfits, but they needn't remain in the main closet.  They can go into storage.   Then it's a question of "Precisely how many plays/opera/symphonies/ballets do I intend to attend on a yearly basis?" and "What is work-suited?"  then I can trim down until I have a functional, ordered, closet space.

Writing is the same.   Sometimes I'm afraid I keep passages and minor arcs out of sentimentality.   Like the black speghetti strap dress with the large red tropical flowers--it looked good when I graduated HS, but it really is massively outdated now.  It needs to go away.  Out of the closet.   High School wasn't really that important.   Why would I find it easier to get rid of the dress I wore to my college graduation?  Far more recent, far more suited to the times--but not to my wardrobe.  it's as if the parts of my writing that have held on the longest are parts I think I should keep.  by virtue of their pressence they become sentimental.

But that attitude makes the manuscript as unruly as my closet.  It's time to Outline.   What do I need?  What do I cut? 



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