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Monday, January 31, 2005

The outline-Gorman

Graham Greene felt that he wasted his early writing years by not outlining his novels in advance. Wasted too much time he didn't have.

I have to say that his books did get better as he got older but whether this was due to the outling I can't say.

I wish I could outline. The few times I've managed to fix an outline on both the page and in my mind, I was more relaxed with the writing itself. I didn't wake up in the middle of the night depressed because I couldn't figure out what next day at the machine would bring.

I've thrown something like seven or eight full novels away in the past twenty-some years. And double or triple than in long false starts. And mostly because I just couldn't shape the would-be book into anything coherent.

Because I write two thousand words a day, virtually every day of the year, I'm able to to finish and revise most of my novels in a bit more than three months. So throwing whole books away isn't a total disaster.

One of my editors told me once that she thought the false starts I threw away were my first drafts. She pointed out that while I struggled with depression and occasional migraines in getting a hundred pages down--pages I'd inevitably throw away--I was actually prepping my materials the way a sculptor does before he or she begins serious work on a piece. She was right on one point. A lot of thrown away pages do help me rough about the story and the people so that when I start over on page one I write very quickly straight through to the end.

Maybe that's just my process and there's nothing I can do about it.

But damn it seems great--from afar--to be one of those folks who outlines a book and then sits down and writes with barely a hitch. Or does that ever really happen?

7 Comments:

Blogger Bill said...

I get the feeling that James Reasoner, with the able assistance of Livia, of course, is an ace outliner. Maybe he'll weigh in on this.

January 31, 2005 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger James Reasoner said...

I've written books from 60 page outlines that were really highly condensed versions of the books themselves, and I've written others with no outline at all, just a vague sense of what the plot was going to be. I'm not really that comfortable with either extreme. Although taking off and winging it with no outline can be fun . . . if everything works out right. These days I like a nice six to eight page outline so that the basic structure of the book has already been figured out before I start. I usually write these even for books where the publisher doesn't require an outline, just for my own benefit.

All that said, I don't think I've ever written a book that turned out exactly like the outline. Some unexpected plot twist or character always pops up during the writing of the book itself.

And Bill is right, I've written quite a few books from outlines that Livia created with little or no input from me.

January 31, 2005 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger jchess said...

My definition of an outline is to figure out the ending and work backwards to the beginning.

James C. Hess
http://www.thinkingrockpress.com/trp1086.html

February 1, 2005 at 4:32 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

I use a standard three-act structure with plot points at first, then expand that to index cards. I find if I outline too much I lose interest in the story, not enough and I get lost. Having said that, I've only finished six novels, so I'ms till a beginner--but I cannot imagine working without any idea where the hell I'm headed. I've tried that with short fiction, with decidedly mixed results.

February 1, 2005 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger BLANCHE said...

Nice blog. Have you seen your google rating? BlogFlux It's Free and you can add a Little Script to your site that will tell everyone your ranking. I think yours was a 3. I guess you'll have to check it out.

Computer News
Microsoft lawsuit is called a 'charade'

In a simmering legal tussle, Google, the Internet search company, is asking a judge to reject Microsoft's bid to keep a prized research engineer from taking a job at Google, saying that Microsoft filed a lawsuit to frighten other workers from defecting.

Microsoft sued the research engineer, Kai-Fu Lee, and Google last week, asserting that by taking the Google job, Lee was violating an agreement that he signed in 2000 barring him from working for a direct competitor in an area that overlapped with his role at Microsoft.

"This lawsuit is a charade," Google said in court documents filed before a hearing on Wednesday in Seattle. "Indeed, Microsoft executives admitted to Lee that their real intent was to scare other Microsoft employees into remaining at the company."


Google countersued last week, seeking to override Microsoft's noncompete provision so that it can retain Lee.

"In truth, Kai-Fu Lee's work for Microsoft had only the most tangential connection to search and no connection whatsoever to Google's work in this space," Google said in court documents.

The judge in the case, Steven Gonzalez of Superior Court, who heard arguments in the case on Wednesday, said he expected to issue a ruling on Thursday.

Google's filings include details about a conversation Lee had with Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, suggesting that his company was becoming increasingly concerned about Google's siphoning of talent, and perhaps intellectual property.

Lee said Gates told him in a meeting on July 15, referring to Microsoft's chief executive, Steven Ballmer: "Kai-Fu, Steve is definitely going to sue you and Google over this. He has been looking for something like this, someone at a VP level to go to Google. We need to do this to stop Google."

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Lee said Google did not recruit him and had not encouraged him to violate any agreement he had with Microsoft.

Microsoft countered that Lee's job with Google gave him ample opportunity to leak sensitive technical and strategic business secrets. Microsoft noted that Lee attended a confidential, executive-only briefing in March, which was labeled "The Google Challenge."

"In short, Dr. Lee was recently handed Microsoft's entire Google competition 'playbook,"' Microsoft said.

Lee joined Microsoft in August 2000 after he helped to establish its research center in China. At one point, Microsoft said, he was in charge of the company's work on MSN Search.

Microsoft and Google, along with Yahoo, are locked in a fierce battle to dominate search, both online and through desktop search programs. Google has begun offering new services, including e-mail, that compete with Microsoft offerings.


Microsoft said it had paid Lee well in exchange for his promises to honor confidentiality and noncompete agreements.

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Microsoft asserts that there is "an extremely close between the work Lee did at Microsoft and what he will be doing at Google.

Google argued otherwise, insisting that Lee is not a search expert and noting that his most recent work at Microsoft was in speech recognition.


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