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