I don’t know how to write an outline.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It is, however, true.
My agent has asked me for outlines of two books. I pitched the ideas to her, and she liked them, but she wants to know where those ideas are going, and how they’re going to pan out.
The problem is, I don’t know where they’re going. That’s not how I write. I sit down and I begin writing, and the next bit is informed by the last bit. Then, I seed ideas back through the earlier text, as and when I need to.
Obviously, I don’t do this when I’m writing by invitation or when I’m commissioned to do something, but that’s what the husband’s for. He and I discuss the brief, and then he dictates an outline or synopsis, or whatever is required, with me chipping in my tuppence worth as we go along. It works like magic. The thing is, when I’m writing to these outlines, I generally only stick to them in the loosest sort of way. Sometimes, I don’t even read them again once I get started.
Is that terribly wrong of me?
Yesterday, I sat down to write the two outlines for my agent. It was sort of OK for a few paragraphs, but I quickly ran out of things to say. I’m just not used to thinking about a project this thoroughly, this far ahead. I didn’t write synopses for “Naming Names” or “Savant” until after I’d finished those books, and it was still a struggle, “like trying to fit four elephants into a mini”, according to the writer Jane Harris.
At least I’m not alone.
At close of day, yesterday, I e-mailed the outlines to Dan in the office next door, and he came back with some ideas about introducing and framing the paragraphs I had, and I did a bit more, but I suspect putting these ideas on paper will take a while yet to achieve. In the meantime, I could be writing, but I’m a pro now, so, instead, I shall do as my agent asked, and do it happily.
Wish me luck.