4) OUTLINING – To outline or not to outline, that is the question?
For my first three books I worked out detailed outlines before I started writing. For Solomon Creed, however, all I had was the opening scene. I did try to outline but, because the main character is so vast and mysterious, I could never pin him down so I decided instead to try writing a first draft blind to see where it took me.
There’s a famous EL Doctorow quote, oft cited by writers who don’t outline, that goes something like this: ‘Writing a first draft is like driving through fog at night: you can only see a few feet in front of you but you can make the whole journey that way.’ Sounds clever and convincing, right? Until you consider that taking that same journey during the day, and through nothing heavier than light mist and the odd shower, will also get you there, only safer and quicker and with less likelihood that you’ll end up in a ravine with your neck broken.
I found having no outline utterly terrifying and my usual mid-draft slump, where I’m convinced the book is awful, was so horrendous on Solomon that I seriously considered ringing up my publisher and saying ‘Sorry, it’s not working, do you want your advance money back?”
I know there are some writers who like driving at night through fog. Lee Child writes ‘Chapter One’ and takes it from there. So does Stephen King. But there some equally fine writers who, like me, prefer to have a map. James Ellroy writes outlines so detailed they end up longer than the finished book. Jeffrey Deaver spends more time on his outlines than he does on the first draft.
So the answer to the question in the title is that there is no answer beyond ‘whatever works for you’. But I’m sticking to the map for Solomon 2.
Solomon Creed Blog tour – http://www.crimetime.co.uk/mag/index.php/
SOLOMON CREED by Simon Toyne, HarperCollins