Once upon a time, I would sit down at the keyboard, open a vein, and let the words pour out. I even typed with my eyes closed sometimes. That was a long time ago. The younger me could spin stories out completed or half completed. That’s not to say I didn’t need a rewrite, but it seemed like the ideas flowed. I think watching a lot of television back in the day helped. Or movies. Mind you, my writing in the days before I became crime writer Jim Winter leaned on a lot of movie tropes. I seemed to have an innate sense of how television episodes and movies were structured.
As I got older and my brain power got tapped by multiple sources, the free-flowing stories dried up. I had ideas, but I needed to complete them properly. So I began to outline. This got clunky at first. How do you outline? Do you do “I.” for a chapter and “A.” for a scene? One person was so pedantic that they told me that was exactly it. (She was also fond of the telling me “You need a paradigm,” which came from a book that was later largely discredited.) So what is an outline?
The way I came to outline resulted in something resembling a treatment for a movie script. Essentially, I told myself the story in broad strokes. Told the story of the story, what happened in it. It could be called a sketch, but the long (sometimes five pages) work that came out amounted to a lengthy synopsis of a story that did not exist yet. The Children of Amargosa is one. It’s follow up is another.
And then we come to No Marigolds in the Promised Land, my freebie being published on the fly. I don’t want an outline. I actually have no clue how it will end. Up front, it looks like The Martian on an interstellar scale, but eventually, it’s going to have to link up with the rest of the Compact Universe. How that will play out I don’t know yet. But it’s not going to be outlined. I’m back to pantsing. Feel the breeze, baby!
Between installments, I’m working on other projects, including a short story. I’ll talk more about shorts later this week, but one thing is certain. I can’t outline a short. I need a well-developed idea for those to work. It’s not going to happen otherwise.