Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Final Outline--Pre-First Draft Pt. 4

Now that I basically have the story outlined, it's almost time to begin the first draft. But not quite. I still have a few things I need to do before I'm comfortable starting. It's now time to construct my working outline.

My working outline consists of 3x5 cards. I write one scene per card. I usually copy the scene directly from my notebook, though I occasionally need to modify them. I believe the scene description should fit on one side of the card, so if it's too long, I've been too wordy with the outline (meaning it'll suck the life out of the draft) or I need to break the scene into two parts. There are always exceptions (for example, I might be wordy in the outline because I need the scene to play out in an exact way for continuity sake), but one side of a 3x5 card is usually a pretty good indicator for me.

After I finish, I lay out my 3x5 cards in order. I want to see them all at once, so it takes a big space--I lay them out on the floor or a card table because my writing desk is too small. I then read through them to see if I like how the story flows. The reason I like all the cards laying out in view rather than flipping through them while I read is because it's easier to rearrange scenes if they're all out and visible. Even if I'm happy with the order, I'll still play around with moving a few cards to see if something brilliant comes from an unexpected place.

Once the order is set, I'll renumber the cards if necessary and stack them in order. This time I do read through them one by one to make sure I'm happy with the final order (or that I didn't make a clerical error). I'll then make any last minute notes, and I'm ready to start!

Next week I'll talk about my first draft process. Until then, keep writing and/or reading.