NaNoEdiMo: Outlining

On Monday evening – literally evening, rather than afternoon – I finished the first draft. It’s a bit under 83,500 words. EdiMo has finally, properly begun. Though it’s a bit slow (I’m working to fix that….)

I quite like don’t dislike outlining – it can be fun. For me, it’s a necessary process as I’m a “planster” – the type of author that needs a plan to begin but one that is changeable; and she can fly by the seat of her pants if pushed. Outlining can also be a great annoyance, especially when you know you’re writing a series. Knowing it’s a series means that the outlines of subsequent books are affected by decisions made in the writing of the first. Once the editing process concludes, the first step of writing a subsequent book is to outline again. 😛 If a stumbling block comes up or you think too far ahead (e.g. read over book 2 or 3’s plan and realise it/they don’t gel at all with your revised-on-the-fly plan of book 1) then things can paralyse you until you shake yourself out of it or pause the story to adjust things. This should be familiar to anyone who remembers a grumpy post or two from last December/January about this! As Chuck says, “no outlines survive contact with the story”.

A little while ago, Chuck Wendig of terribleminds talked about outlining a novel  specifically for those wanting to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). He then listed some options. For me, this is rather pertinent as NaNo is designated as my Editing Month, as I’ve said. Look for further posts about NaNoEdiMo in the coming weeks. 🙂
Chuck asked us, later, to show an outline for our novel, or at the very least talk about our process. Of course, I couldn’t do it then but will do so – now. 

First let me talk about the process…and then a snippet of an outline, perhaps. Why perhaps? Well… Spoilers, sweetie. Shh*.
My outlines are more like synopses. Plurals, because it’s definitely going to be a series. The project is known as either “Lily’s story” or (more formally) “the Lily Chronicles”. Lily is the main character. There will likely be four books (trilogy + one) or three (duology + one). Each book is just “book #x” at this point, though I do have a few potential titles floating around.

For outlining purposes, I also have an outline for “pre-book 1”, as a lot of the conflict of the series is influenced by things that happened some years before the beginning of that book. I suppose you could say that the series starts about 20 or so years before the actual book 1 “start-date”.  🙂 It’s all about keeping things straight in my head. As I hinted at above, to begin, I need to know where my story is going and I need to write that stuff down so I don’t forget it or get it mixed up.

Of the styles described by Chuck, I use a “Proper Synopsis” style with a bit of mixed “Tent Poles”/ “Scenes and Sequences”. The document is called “LC Plot Synopsis”, for goodness sakes.

So, here’s a squished version of the first part of the first book’s synopsis. A complicating thing is, because the first book is the first (well duh) in the series, I felt like I had to explain things a bit, you know, set the scene. On the other hand, something the editing will look at is whether I’ve done too much early scene-setting. Also, there are things in here that need to be reworked – like the concept of Altaris. It was originally going to be something like Antarctica, so I need to make sure I do it correctly (I think I’ve been creating the lifestyle wrongly). For now though….

In 130 SFA, tensions are rising. The democratic Global Monarchy, involving all countries of Terra, claims to cater for all, regardless of class, colour, gender or any other such divisions. It aims to provide schools for every child, hospitals for every person and equal rights for all in the workplace, the home and the street.  Of course, that is a big ask. Many of the royalty and other politicians – governors and representatives – like to think they succeed. But underneath the gloss, all is not what it seems [link to inequality stuff to be explored later].

New law proposals are being debated, causing tensions to rise again in a manner reminiscent of twenty years previously, when the laws relating to wonder-drugs that freeze a person’s age, allowing them to live a full life until the age of 150 or 160 years, were enacted. These furthered the advances already made, such as the ones regarding stem cell technology and nanotechnology (regrowth of tissue, curing certain diseases, etc.). Now these new laws, regarding the latest end-of-life technology, could change everything. Two opposing viewpoints stand: one advocates the advances in technology that allow the “digital preservation” of a person’s self, created by the person during their lifetime and supplemented by family and friends after death. When the wonder-drugs stop working (due to the body developing an immunity over time to them), or an accident occurs and the person dies, their essence is preserved. The technique has been tested by members of the royalty successfully already. The second method offered is far more radical – to combine the use of wonder-drugs with surgeries to replace “faulty” biological parts with manufactured, “better” ones. There would be no need for physical agents (AIs), for human and machine would become meshed. The ultimate dream – to live forever, or at least a thousand years; 150 or 160 years is too short.

The proposals are argued, released for public debate, and argued more. The royalty – though they must of course remain neutral – are partial to the “digital presence” proposal. After all, it has worked with them. The second proposal is simply too radical, and requires too great a change; not to mention it seems rather implausible. But it has captured the minds of many in the general populace.

To make matters more complicated, Queen Danielle is approaching fifteen years in office. Usually, the monarch would step down after this time and a Ballot would be held to choose the next one. However the unrest of 20 years ago and circumstances of her ascension granted her an extra five years. That does not sit well with some, and certain politicians use this to their advantage.

A “grand tour” of Terra is proposed, and eagerly accepted. Queen Danielle and her entourage must spend the next year (the beginning of Firstmonth to the end of Twelfthmonth, 131) travelling. A not unwelcome prospect, though extremely planned and structured. Let the journey begin.

First stop: Altaris. Lily Peters has been looking forward to the Royal Visit with interest, as has her Ma, Dorothy. They and their dogs Snowcone and Sugardust live on the edge of ‘Moosa’, the Altari capital and main research station, as well as major supply port. Lily is a girl of seventeen, with green eyes, chocolate skin and dark red hair. She wishes and dreams big. In contrast, Dorothy is a practical, no-nonsense woman with honey?-/white-blond) hair, pale freckled skin & blue eyes. Dorothy is a psychologist for the station, and has raised Lily on her own since she came there in 115 at the end of the war. They are awaiting the formal parade on the morrow with interest; over the past few days, the Royals and other “dignitaries” have visited places within Moosa – and elsewhere on the icy island as they gather the views of the populace – but this is the big show-off for them.

For the Queen’s group, meetings with the Altari Governor, gauging his views, have been largely unsuccessful. The night before the big parade to farewell them, the Guardians go out to the Crystal Caves, to spend time there before re-joining the others for the parade. Some of the Guardians, those strong in Affinity of Spirit feel “pricking in their thumbs” about coming events and wish to focus themselves. The next day, the Guardians return from the Caves. On their way to the parade, the group splits up, given who “needs” to be there when, and such. … The second group take the chance to explore the area a bit, given they missed the morning tours. Then a Haeri attacks Ash, who attempts to defend himself.

Meanwhile, Lily goes for a walk to the centre of “town”, after having spent the morning floating along the edges of the Queen’s entourage. The parade is scheduled to begin in a few hours. On her way there, Lily is side-tracked by a glimpse of the Guardians (which had been her intent, really). She intercepts Cody, travels with him to find Ash and then has a run-in with Randall, avoiding capture “somehow” (using her Affinity) before taking them home. When Ash meets Lily, he accidentally gives her Shadow Implants that originally came from Owen Ranger. When Dorothy sees and hears what’s going on, she knows that … the time has come to let Lily go. She refuses to go with them, wrong-footed by Ash’s appearance – and recognition of her. The parade occurs; Ash takes Lily to the other Guardians, where he passes her to Philippa S— & updates the group. Philippa is not impressed, though it’s not explained why (to Lily, anyway). The re-appearance of the Haeri, so openly, has signalled the possibility of bigger problems, which everyone is much more keen to focus on.

Etc. (another 1700 or so words, only skimming the surface of the story.

I also use the “As You Go” for in-story, especially when I need to finish quickly (i.e. train is three minutes away from the final stop) and know exactly where to pick up next time.

  • Lily & Philippa talk a little. Lily introduced and Philippa Named as her teacher, causing some friction – not everyone agrees. Lily wonders why. Later, Lily talks with Mentor Jessica about things, but she doesn’t get all the answers and ends up annoying Bonnie …

Finally, I use – or will use – a form of the “Characters in Control” outline in terms of knowing the characters. I have a “Character Profile” doc that needs to be updated badly – I’m working on that now actually. More on that in another post.

* You will make me happy if you know this reference, though I may have mangled it.