My friend Doug has written about his current state of Non-Writing-Ness over at his blog. He talks about the differences in writing that first and second novel. He outlined his first but with his second, he is "flying blind." And that got me to thinking about my first two books.
My first novel, the Harry Truman mystery novel, Treason at Hanford, I decided to outline the entire book from start to finish. Back in 2005 when I was first writing that book, I learned that F. Scott Fitzgerald outlined all of his books. Hey, I thought, if he did it, why not me? And I also learned that even though outlining was a form of structure, the words and text took on a life of their own, revealing themselves in little nuances here and there. Another good factor about my outlining--I did it in scenes, written on note cards, and thumbtacked to a cork board--process was that in those precious two hours a day I had to write (10pm-midnight), I did not have any 'starting at the ceiling' moments. I knew exactly what I was to write that day. It helped. I wrote my first book in a little over 8 months.
With my second, however, things have changed. I am writing a contemporary crime novel set here in Houston post-Katrina. And, since I outlined the first book, I kept to that tradition. And I've found myself in Outline Hell! For the longest time, I told myself "You can't start writing until you know how the book ends." That has led to paralysis. I keep trying to figure out what the book was about and whom should be the focus. I keep trying to make the book perfect from the get-go. Wrong idea.
Originally, I had as my main character a black, ex-con, former enforcer, out of prison and seeking redemption. Now, my main character is a white, female, HPD detective with a streak of compassion running through her. How's that for a shift in focus?
But lately, I've made two crucial decisions and it all stems from the mantra Get It Written. One, I've decided to make my story a multiple-POV story. My ex-con, my detective, and some of the New Orleans evacuees will all share top billing and I will have certain chapters from each person's POV. That's a far cry from my original first-person POV versions of the book (I'm on version 4 now). Two, I'm just going to write it all down and if, after I've done that, the book does not flow with all of these characters, I'll trim it back. But I'll have the text down. As it is right now, I have nearly 100pp of written material...most of which I can't use. But it has all led me to this moment: Just Get It Written.
And, I've abandoned my intense desire to have the book 100% outlined before I start. I have 75-80% of it in my head and written down and I know how I'd like the book to end. It's just that the parts just after Act II ends and the big finale that are cloudy. But, I'm forging ahead.
I originally wanted the book finished by Memorial Day 2007 so I could shop it at the MWA-Southwest conference in Dallas back in June 2007. Then, I decided to complete the first draft by Labor Day 2007. Now, while I'll have a good chunk written by then, I'm not sure I'll have the entire thing finished. But I'll be well on my way. And, with a complete draft ready by the fall, I'll be able to start shopping my second novel around while I write/submit some short stories and start to work on Novel #3: probably a SF book. We'll see.
Oh, and once I get the software and hardware necessary, I'll be podcasting my Harry Truman novel over at Podiobooks.com. And, if that goes well, I'll podcast my second book. It's an adventure, writing, but it is a glorious one.