One of the things that might baffle our readers is how often myself or my friends on the blog talk about the books as though they weren't controllable. As if they are ... identities external to ourselves that lurk in the dark alleys of the mind and pounce on us when we least expect it.
It’s not exactly that. At least I think not. They’re not really independent from ourselves, but they come from somewhere so far deep inside that we can’t really control them or know which ones will be compelling enough to make us write them.
In the diner – my conference in Baen’s bar – one of the habitues made a big deal of the fact that I was posting my third or fourth beginning and hadn’t – to his knowledge – finished any of them. His knowledge wasn’t EXACTLY accurate. Like most professional writers I submit some books on proposal and if they sell somewhere other than Baen I don’t feel I have the right to take up the publisher’s bytes to post other house’s stuff. All the same it is true that sometimes I wake up with a strong, imperative beginning that, after I noodle around with it for a while, I realize is not something that I’m destined to write. There are novels that “belong” to you and others, no matter how good they seem, that perhaps you’d like to read, but you, yourself, can write.
On more than one occasion I’ve wished these misfits on other writers. Others just quietly go away after a while. And, of course, some novels I’d love to write go out in proposal and never sell, and therefore never get written. Of the twenty I sent out over the last five years, I have five of those in that uncomfortable position. Not a bad sell through, of course, but all the same, those always feel like reproaches to my mind.
Because of that – perhaps – I’m struggling with an attempt at changing my proposal-writing style. Perhaps it is entirely my imagination, but I think I’m a better novelist than an outliner. In fact, I think practically everyone is. It’s very hard to write an outline that won’t be – at best – skimmed over by a bored reader. At least it’s very hard for me.
I’ve bought a couple of books on the subject, but none has taught me anything I don’t know about it – so I’m throwing the question out there. Do you know of any site on writing outlines? Do you have any idea of how to make them more interesting? I don’t mean a chapter by chapter outline (I think those are of necessity deadly dull and not a good sales tool) but what some books call a synopsis – written in the present tense and taking the form of a “little story.”
Anyway have any ideas how I can make such a thing sing?
*Oh, the pictures are the latest way my stories have taken to attacking when I least expect. And no, I have absolutely no clue who these people are. Yet. I daresay I won't be lucky enough to escape KNOWING.*