Notes Of A Storyteller: Outlining “The Stand”

I am in a moment of grave decision. All week, I’ve been tweaking my outline for The Stand (Part Two of The Kingdom Trilogy). All things considered, I’ve been tweaking the outline for about three years. The basic structure of The Kingdom Trilogy has been set since 2007. Strangely, this is no comfort to me. I don’t feel ready to approve my outline, even though I have an opening written for this book already- three of them, actually.

It’s odd when I think about it. I have one full-length novel under my belt and I thought I would be blazing with confidence right now. I thought I would be better prepared. When I first started The Quest (Part One of The Kingdom Trilogy), I outlined the plot loosely. I had a general framework, but I gave myself room to roam with details. Not so this time. I wound up with too many throwaway passages last time; my outline for The Stand is much more structured.

Surely that would make the difference, right? Wrong. I’m still as unconfident as ever. I spent all of Thursday afternoon slamming my fingertips into my laptop. I had copied everything from my chapter outline that I didn’t like and pasted it in another document so that I could write down my reasons why I didn’t like them. That Word document is about 9 pages long at last count. I don’t feel ready at all.

Perhaps that’s why I’m a writer. I’m never satisfied with my own work. This last semester in college, I had dual ten-page term papers to write. Two hours before they were due, I still found myself peering at each paragraph, probing for imperfections. I hated every single draft I wrote. My Ancient Egypt professor gave me a decent grade, but it could not cool the fire. That’s the person I am. I have come to realize that no matter how much I tinker with this outline, I will always loathe it and want to take it out to some deep, terrible pit in the earth and burn it.

Now I must decide whether to begin this novel in earnest. Hence the anxiety. It feels like my inner critic and I are on a see-saw, and the inner critic weighs more than a gluttonous minotaur. I can’t come down, and I wish I could. I’ll be showing my editor my latest draft tonight; she may be my only hope.

Somehow I think there’s only so much she can help me, when it comes to my nerves. Every fiction writer, at some point or another, must steel his brows and leap headfirst into the abyss of uncertainty. Now that I’ve done it once with The Quest, it’s time to do it again with The Stand.


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