Darynda Jones’ writing is so fun, so fresh, you might think she doesn’t use much of her right brain logic. But she does. Read on, and you’ll learn why and how her right brain rockets her to best seller success.
From Darynda Jones:
So, yeah, I get teased. Even today, sitting at the big girls’ table, I get teased. I’m a plotter, but not just any plotter. I plot like my life depends on it and, in a way, my career does. I’ve learned not to mess with my process and it will often produce outlines that consist of between 40 and 60 pages.
Lots of writers outline. Most don’t do it to that extent, but I see my outline as a map. I have to know where I’m going before I start on the journey. I have to know every turn. Every twist. Every possible obstacle.
Does all this mean that I rigidly stick to my outline? That I never waver or have any kind of spontaneity? Quite the opposite. By creating such a detailed outline, I am actually more free (in my mind, anyway) to divert from the path, because I always know where I’m going. Where I’ll end up. And by creating such a detailed map of events, guess what I never ever have? Go ahead. Guess.
A sagging middle!
A sagging middle is just not a problem I have ever had. My stories never wander aimlessly. Every scene moves the story forward. Every interaction adds important information or develops my characters even more fully.
Of course, there are more advantages to outlining. One is that I am freer to create those fresh twists that get a writer on the best sellers lists. To explore a character’s emotion and take my writing to the next level. I didn’t know how to do this at first, but I stumbled upon an online class on empowering characters’ emotions given by the incredible Margie Lawson and my writing has never been the same.
I learned so much from that class and from the many I’ve taken since, and right now I’m sitting in an immersion class with Margie, learning so much I’m giddy and ecstatic and dizzy with knowledge. I’m already looking forward to my next immersion class! (And, no, I’m so not kidding.)
Anyhoo, are you sold yet? Check out my process and see if you are willing to take the plunge. And even more important, check out Margie’s classes and lecture packets.
Darynda’s Outlining Process:
I plot like there’s no tomorrow, baby. I barely start a book without three distinct outlines.
1. The Skeleton Key: This answers four basic questions:
-- Where are we?
-- What time of day is it?
-- What major event happens in this scene or series of scenes?
-- In what order does the story unfold?
2. The Outline:
This is a brief synopsis of the entire book. It is usually about 5-9 pages long. It’s what I send my editor for approval before actually starting the book.
3. The Detailed Outline:
This is where I take the skeleton key, plug the outline into the appropriate areas, then add any details I’ve come up with including specific scenes, little extras I want to reveal here and there, funny lines or situations I want to use, and even internal and external motivation.
These outlines usually run between 40 and 60 pages, but remember that part about adding scenes? Yeah, by this point I’ve already written a nice chunk of the book.
Next, I take the final detailed outline, copy and paste it into my manuscript, and delete as I go. This way I never stray far from the conceived story. I don’t wander around, wondering where I’m going. I know exactly what is coming next, and very often, if it’s a “hard” scene (meaning I’m too lazy to write it at that moment), I’ll jump to another scene. I don’t get bored and/or stuck very often and I rarely pull my hair out by its roots. I’ve tried pantsing. It wasn’t pretty. I had writer’s block by the time I got to page three.
NOTE: Let me just say that I write ALL over the place. I do not write linearly in any way, shape or form. But each scene has a purpose. Each scene moves the story forward. This makes the book tight, the pacing strong, and the story smooth. By having such a detailed map of where I’m going, I can write on chapter two one day and chapter nineteen the next. Another (possibly more important) advantage to outlining is that I’m always making progress, always having fun.
Darynda has a smart right brain. But I love her uber-creative left brain too. Here are a few of the hundreds of fresh examples from her upcoming May 19th release, Eighth Grave After Dark.
1. “Having a secret meeting with my husband?” I asked, my voice sharp with accusation and innuendo. Mostly accusation.
2. What Gemma so often forgot was that no matter how soft and nonjudgmental her voice was, I could feel the emotions raging beneath her calm exterior.
Flicker Face Emotion:
A worried expression flashed across Reyes’s face so fast, I almost missed it. Almost.
“I just like to keep you on your toes.”
“Oh, you do that. No worries there. I’m like a ballerina when you’re around.”
Rhetorical Device, Conduplicatio
Still, seeing it in person sent a tiny quiver of terror lacing down my spine. Terror that I’d burst out laughing and embarrass her.
Character Description and Humor Hit:
All in all, he was very nice looking. Medium height. Slim build. Exotic coloring. His accent would suggest a local upbringing. I got the feeling that in his spare time he liked wearing feather boas and singing karaoke. But that could just be me projecting.
Fresh and Funny:
Reyes exploded into the room incorporeally, his heat like a nuclear blast over my skin. I held up a hand, and though it was meant for Reyes—he had a tendency to sever spines first and ask questions later—Agent Waters stopped instantly.
I could never hate him. Not even if he ate the last Oreo, though that would be pushing it.
A big THANK YOU to Darynda for sharing her right brain with us!
BLOG GUESTS – Share your ideas about outlining, or not. Or share a fresh example from Darynda Jones or your WIP.
Post a comment and you could win an online class from Lawson Writer’s Academy!
This class starts April 5th:
Thank you for dropping by Writers In the Storm!
Margie Lawson—editor and international presenter—is often considered one of the top writing teachers in America. She used her clinical psychology expertise to develop deep editing techniques used by new writers to multi-award winning authors. In the last decade Margie has presented ninety-plus full day master classes to writers in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers credit her innovative EDITS System and deep editing techniques for taking their writing to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.
Margie created (and teaches for) Lawson Writer’s Academy, which has over thirty online instructors. She also teaches Immersion Master Classes, four-day, personalized, hone-your-writing-craft intensive experiences. To learn more, please visit www.MargieLawson.com.
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