Fifteen pages into The Faith Machine and it was clear that one of the plot threads was hopelessly convoluted. A kidnapping without an explanation, and the recovery of a lost cellphone from those same kidnappers while a car battery was being stolen for reasons that made sense in the outline but fell apart once words starting being put to paper. It was only one of three opening threads but unfortunately it was the core plot and the entangling had ramifications on all the others. Out of those fifteen pages I think I can keep one.
Nobody spins gold one the first draft. I can’t remember how many times I rewrote the opening to Picking Up the Ghost but it was more than four. If it was later in the book that plot might have been saved. But the first chapter should be about introductions, character, setting, style, genre rules. It’s not about plot twists, there isn’t a plot to twist yet.
It’s back to the outline and I more confident at this pass. Every pass makes it better. And it’s better to get the rewriting in now than after the polish.
Here’s page one of The Faith Machine outline.
The first act is pretty solid and the second act is coming together. I figure the third act won’t take too long to outline since I’ve had most of it in my head since day one but I’ve said that before.
Last weekend was spent transcribing into Google Docs. I’ve been walking around with 40 scenes of outline and about 10 more pages of miscellaneous notes, putting far too much faith in my ability to hold onto things.
I thought I had a solid outline for Picking Up the Ghost but it broke down towards the middle and I didn’t get any feedback on it. I’ll be running this outline by some people before the actual writing starts and hopefully I won’t have to rewrite the second half of this book.
This has also helped juxtapose and manipulate ideas before they gel. Originally I had five golden rings as MacGuffins but not only are rings played out but they were supposed to be relics of the Soviet Union and small and shiny doesn’t evoke the USSR so I changed them to big clunky chairs. This demobilization had all kinds of implications for the cast and plot which I would have been reluctant to do if I was 40 pages into the prose. But in an outline it just took a few hours to adjust.
Outlining rules. \m/ \m/
A psychic espionage story of factions; The Chinese bureau of ghostbusting vs. a Liberian warlord vs. the last Soviet parapsychologists vs. a mercenary army with weaponized psychic corpses vs. North Korea vs. an American anti-Gnostic cult vs. The Department of Health and Human Services vs. Jesus.
This sub-genre has few footprints in prose. As far as I can tell it’s just Declare and Three Days to Never from Powers and the Necroscope series by Lumney. There’s far more speculative spy stuff in comics; The Invisibles, Planetary, Secret Avengers, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Nick Fury and on and on.
New tools. I’m trying the Snowflake method for outlining, hopefully that will keep me from having to rewrite the last half of this novel between drafts, and the Scrivener word processor, which I can already tell will make moving scenes around far easier than it was in MS Word.
Making the climb up from the cliff of notes to outline country is tough, because notes and research is so damn fun: