What I don’t do:
I don’t do outlines.
I’m not bragging or being rebellious, I just don’t do them.
Outlines can put you on a narrow path, and narrow paths lead towards termination and stagnation. I find that if I just sit down and write linearly, other paths open up that wouldn’t have been there in planning. On the reverse side of that, sometimes false paths are canceled out.
I find that writing to an outline is like playing to a script. The end product starts to feel that way, too. You stop seeing the story as life happening, and start seeing it as a handful of actors on a stage reading lines they’ve memorized. Spontaneity in my writing gives it action. The flow of the piece seems more natural and interminable.
Now, I consider myself a writer of epic science fiction, and you can’t just write that linearly. Science Fiction is the realm of paradox and prescience, time travel and parallel universes. That dagger the warrior spacer chick just plunged into the Imperial Warlord is juxtaquantumly entangled with the diamond tooth of a galaxy-devouring superorganism in a parallel reality that only exists because of the temporal implosion that hasn’t yet occurred at the end of the universe that lies in between the two timetrap anomalies skewering both entangled universes. Try tying that all together effectively without at least writing it down somewhere.
I can’t. BUT I don’t outline it. I DO write it down somewhere like I just did, and then stuff it away in some notebook for reference later. When later becomes now, I dig futilely for it and eventually find something else instead, then I rewrite the rules and suddenly the story evolves into something completely different.
Effective? Maybe not. Entertaining? Absolutely.
Writing is not accounting. There’s no checks and balances. There are no rules and regulations. A writer just writes, whether they’re vomiting out sophomoric drivel, or penning an 18-volume historical romance set in the first World War.
Outlines? Well … I don’t like olives either.
What I do:
I try to grab my readers by the face and push them into the scene. You’re not watching my story on a screen – I want you here, now, involved, suffering, feeling, wanting to get away but stuck, entranced and angry.
I like the subtle details. The eyelash scratching the pupil. The line of ants curling up under the heat of a gas stovetop that’s just been turned on. A Tubeway Army t-shirt. I want you to feel the pain on your eyeball. I want you to feel the heat of burning gas and hear the crisping of antflesh. I want you to argue that there is no such thing as a Tubeway Army t-shirt.
Anything less than that and I’m just bludgeoning you with words.
What I hate:
I hate shock writers. I hate writers that take established philosophies and rape you with their tenets. You’re not schooling me in existentialism by making your character eat feces. I used to write like that. You eat some Palahniuk or Miller or Barker and you think its infectious, like a zombie plague. Just because you got off on it, doesn’t mean you can write it. Palahniuk can do it because he hides the plot in the shapes behind the curtains of filth. Miller spins sex into child’s toy, not some cabalistic rite performed by troglodytes in a refrigerator box. Barker takes blood and turns it into honey. They can write it because they created it. You’re just an unreasonably dim facsimile.
What I love:
I love continuity. I love Agamemnon speaking in Alia’s head. I love jelly babies in a darker TARDIS. I love seeing where an author has said, “Pay attention to this” and then 12 books later explains why. Continuity is epic. Preserved hands at Torchwood are epic.
There’s not enough epic these days – just repetition and formulaic drama.
Formula is for babies – immature.