Every now and then over at the Tumblr I wind up chatting with people about various aspects of writing, the writing business, and technique — usually under the “writing advice” tag. Some weeks back (don’t ask me when, it’s been busy around here) a question came up about outlining, and various people suggested that they’d like to see what one of my outlines looked like. So I made a note to myself to find an outline at some point and post it for those who might be interested.
Today I was going through one of the smaller portable expansion drives we keep around the house for temporary data storage, with an eye to cleaning it out so it could be used in updating my old laptop to run Windows 7. While I was sorting through the directories (and again and again muttering “Why the hell have I been hanging onto this…?!”) I came across what appears below. This is the outline for the Star Trek novels Swordhunt (later subdivided into Swordhunt and Honor Blade) and The Empty Chair.
This is an example of one of the ways I outline. It’s not a “beat outline,” in which every scene is laid out in book-chronological order and with considerable detail about action and sometimes even dialogue. I suppose it could be considered more of a “pitch outline”, intended to indicate both a story’s background and its foreground issues and action in broad strokes. It’s also intended for an editor already thoroughly familiar with my writing style and the way I handle a given license and its characters (in this case Star Trek).
One of the reasons I allowed myself to submit something so (relatively) relaxed in format is that I knew my editors — first John Ordover and then Marco Palmieri — were confident enough about what I would do with the actual novels to not mind an outline of this kind. It does however begin with a brief recap of previous work in the series for the benefit of anybody in the Trek offices (either at the book end in NY, or the licensing-and-approvals end in LA and elsewhere) who might need to be brought up to speed on the background; as Trek editors in general and the faithful and long-suffering Paula Block (routine overseer-of-things on the licensing side) always have so much other work on their plates that a reminder of the details might be welcome.
The outline weighs in at just under 3700 words, or about eight single-spaced 8.5″ x 11″ pages. Needless to say, if you have not read the Rihannsu sequence of Trek novels and you’re planning to, and you don’t want to be spoiled, then you should avoid reading any further….