Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Outlining: The Specifics for Candy

While we’re on the topic of outlining, I thought I’d do a little compare and contrast of the original outline for Candy from Strangers to the finished book.

The outline ran to 21 pages and called for a total of 29 chapters. The finished book has 31 chapters and there are 381 manuscript pages and a total of about 100,000 words (which is somewhat long for a mystery novel).

A careful examination of the chapters in the outline shows that 23 of them actually made it to the book in a recognizable form, which means that six of them were discarded completely and a total of eight entirely new chapters were added during the process of composition.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the changes are in the final third of the book where I found the story taking on a new momentum and wasn’t satisfied that the chapters from the outline really supported it. However, the next to last “showdown” chapter and the final “wrap up” chapter are written pretty much as I originally envisioned.

In addition, one of the new chapters was inserted at the suggestion of my writers group. I’ll talk more about writers groups and the process of making revisions in later postings.

What is the value of this analysis? Perhaps only to underscore my personal opinion that the main benefit of outlines is to give the writer the confidence he or she needs to start a book. Outlines shouldn’t be followed slavishly to the exclusion of other good ideas—either from you or reviewers you trust.

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