Question 2

Do you make an outline when you write or just write?


Most of the time I do make some sort of an outline or roadmap or guide. I know that I’ve never

sat down and written a formal outline like they teach you to do in high school and college.

That’s just not for me. Normally, I’ll make a lot of notes when I’m coming up with an idea for

a novel. I’ll make a list of the characters and maybe have some notes about them. Then I try

to organize those ideas into how they flow in the story. Usually, I just make a list of what I see

happening and the order in which it happens. I try to go by that and let the rest just fall into

place. When I’m writing a novel, nothing is really set in stone. I may have a list of things that

are going to happen but as I get into the story I might throw something in that changes that list

or the order or adds or subtracts from it.


The process for me is really very fluid. Things can change. I can come up with another idea or

change some aspect or character for the better or worse as the case may be from time to time.

I may start going in one direction then change course midway through the manuscript. Some

writers are really rigid in their approach to writing. They create the whole outline, chapter by

chapter, and stick with it. Good for them if they can do that. I don’t know what kind of quality

they’re turning out, but whatever works for you.


The Versailles Conspiracy, for example, ended in a completely different manner than I had

originally anticipated. I threw some things into the plot along the way that I hadn’t originally

anticipated, and that made the original ending that I envisioned just a little too theatrical. The

original ending might be good for a movie version of the book, but it just wouldn’t have worked

for the novel. Personally, I think the ending of the book is far better than what I had originally

planned, but when I set out to write that book, I didn’t foresee it taking that direction. It just

sort of took on a life of its own and went in its own direction. The same could be said for The

House of Dark Shadows. It was significantly different in a number of aspects from what I had

originally anticipated and planned for.


I think writers need to keep an open mind and have a sense of flexibility when it comes to the

storyline. I know that both The Versailles Conspiracy and The House of Dark Shadows turned

out better for the flexibility that I had and the changes I made. But here’s what’s important. I

want each one of my novels to be unique. I want each one to have its own special attributes so

that they each take on a life of their own, if you get my drift. A lot of highly successful writers

have a certain format and stick to it like clockwork. Basically, all they’re doing is changing the

location and the character names. It’s sort of like one of my favorite TV shows, Walker, Texas

Ranger with Chuck Norris. Here was a show that only had like half a dozen different story

lines. All they did was change up the guest stars each week, but the stories followed the same

format…someone gets killed and Chuck Norris goes after them and beats the crap out of them,

end of show. If you read some of the top writers over the last twenty years, you’ll find that a lot

of their books follow the same format. I don’t think anyone can say that of any of my books at

this point.