In the dilemma of whether or not to write with an outline, I fall firmly into the skip the outline camp. My plan forms as I write. But before I spend a lot of time on an idea that won’t pan out, I like to know if I’ve got something that will make the leap from idea to viable project. So,
even as I’m trying out a few lines of dialogue between two characters I don’t yet feel I know,
or setting the scene with a description of what’s on stage in my mind’s eye,
or posing a question which I’m answering in a quick scribble (nothing too philosophical or thematic—more the “why is this character running down the street in pajamas” kind of question than "why am I here"),
I’m watching for the indicators that this is that make-the-leap kind of idea. A good idea.
Some ideas can be real toads.
And in case you think this list applies only to novels, I’m going to find picture books to make my examples.
This is what I look for:
Ultimately, no matter the age group, the subject, the text, the story, all are less significant for meaning or “value” than for how well engaged is the reader’s curiosity or sense of humor or experience of fun.
Will he never get out?
Or it’s a wish fulfillment Cinderella story.
Or a wild Indiana Jones type journey.
There are many other possibilities, and the way the story begins suggests which structure will suit.
But it can play with the reader’s expectation of that genre.
Stellaluna makes a good example of the kind of playfulness I’m thinking about. The separation story becomes a lesson in another culture before the reunion occurs (and then another reunion is looked for).
if an idea touches on all these points, you have a winner.
Audrey Couloumbis writes middle grade novels, but reads picture books for her own satisfaction and entertainment. Occasionally she reads poetry. Currently, she is enjoying God Got a Dog, by Cynthia Rylant.
Meet the Wednesday Blogateers
First Wednesdays will feature Orel Protopopescu, multi-published award -winning author and poet.
Follow our Blogs!
Join our Tribe
and receive 7 Steps to Creative Happiness, access to free webinars, and lots more!
Your email addresses are always safe and respected with us.