Thursday, September 26, 2013

Veering from the outline

Definitely not the cover, but you
get the idea.
Back in February, I posted that I was nine chapters into the final book in The Venus Trilogy. Today, I'm only 14 chapters in. I wrote the first chapter of the book in June 2012 sitting at friend and fellow poet Agnes Meadow's kitchen table in London. Only tiny vestiges of that initial chapter remain at this point, and most of what I wrote in the winter and spring is gone, too. What happened? I veered off the outline.

Writers are particular about using outlines. I didn't use one for Conquering Venus, the first novel in the trilogy, but I did create a very loose one for Remain In Light. For Leaving Paris (hey, at least it has a title!), I wrote a very detailed synopsis, almost like a film treatment, and I planned to follow it to the letter. Then I let the idea of a minor character from Conquering Venus sort of take over. If you've read Venus, you'll remember Paul, the young man Martin meets when they are both institutionalized. Paul didn't figure into Remain In Light, but I had always planned to give the character closure in the final book. Paul was to appear at a book signing Martin was giving in Memphis, there was to be some dialogue, some explanation of what had happened over the last decade and then it was back to the main action. Instead, Paul took over and the storyline veered wildly off course.

I created an entire subplot about Paul, his boyfriend, his ongoing mental illness and the novel ground to a halt trapping Martin and Diane in Memphis, while the really interesting stuff with Irène and Christian (riots, assassination attempts) was happening in Paris. As Mr. Faulkner soundly recommended, I had to kill my darlings, which meant the dozens of pages I'd written about Paul went into the trash (well, cut and pasted into a file for future reference). After excising Paul, I had to reconnect the dots.

After some suggestions from BFF's Karen, Colin and Joy B., I think I'm finally back on track, but I'm also incredibly behind. My father's death in the spring, my new job situation, my grandmother's illness and working with Sibling Rivalry Press to get Conquering Venus and Remain In Light back in print have meant more real life than creative life. I'm back on task and using the outline and I'm going to follow it until the end then go back and tweak as necessary.

I suppose the good thing that came out of this u-turn is that I discovered that Paul might could carry his own story or at least be a prominent supporting character. Now that I've got his backstory down, I have a feeling he'll pop up somewhere else in my future writing. Who knows... he might even wind up in some little hick town in Georgia called Cottonwood.

3 comments:

Kate Evans said...

I love it! Our creativity has its own mind sometimes. :)

Chelle Cordero said...

Definitely sounds like Paul is going to need his own story to come to life - something we can all look forward to.

Alison Law said...

Glad you were courageous enough to veer off the path and kill your darlings. I'm sure we'll all benefit from your bold decisions.

Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional

Welcome to Collin Kelley: Modern Confessional, the website for poet, novelist, playwright and journalist Collin Kelley.