Monday, November 15, 2010

Risks, Rewards and 500,000 Words

I'm outlining a not-so-new fantasy today. It's not-so-new because I've four vastly different completed versions of this story, each at 125k -150k. Version One is the pantser story, written wholly on whim of "oh, that could be cool." It begins with the protag as a pre-teen and follows her through ten years of "higher education" in pursuit of a kind of hazy quest. That "hazy quest" led to Drastically Different Revision (DDR) 1. Why? Well, plot is something fairly relevant in most stories. DDR1 tried to retro-fit a plot and failed miserably. It was a bit like dancing a flame-throwing jig blindfolded with forty of your closest friends.

You're lucky if your ass-hairs are the only things getting singed. 

Creating a clear plot led to DDR2, which was spectacular and riveting. You knew what she wanted, why she wanted it, why no one wanted her to have it, and what they were doing to stop it. Awesome, no? No. The plot was strong but the protag too strong. Sure she failed, but the consequences weren't proportional to the failure. They weren't even exaggerated. Level half the world and only get a slap on the wrist? Erm. No. That makes the book a Wall-Banger, the sort you fling across the room in a pique for wasting your time and emotional investment.

 The only banging happening should be between the protag and her assorted lovers.

DDR 3 tried to change the inevitable disappointment, to make her transgressions less egregious and the consequences more heinous. It didn't work. The safety net of higher learning didn't allow her to risk enough or to be punished enough. It became a crutch, the Deus ex Machina of getting out of jail free.

And so, DDR 4 begins. To ensure I have a plot that supports the story, I'm starting with the 5,000 foot outline. Nothing too detailed, because I don't want to lose the fun of discovering the story as I write; however, knowing the Goals, Conflicts, Risks, and Rewards for each chapter should keep me on point. The world I knew will be tweaked, the politics more transparent. The individual quest will pushing the plot forward. Failures will result in tragedies. Success will be in perpetual conflict with the greater desire.

Hopefully, there will be no DDR 5. 


  1. Like with all things - practice makes perfect. I hope #4 is perfect for you!

  2. I hope #4 works for you as well, KAK. I've done something similar with my current WIP, although it's nowhere near 125k, but, 4th? Maybe even 5th time around, things seem to be coming together better.

    Good luck!

  3. Aw, thanks, Ladies! It's DDR 4 or Bust!