OmniOutliner to the Rescue

Now that I’m down to the last chapter of A Perfect Slave, I’m switching some of my synapses over to A Well-Educated Boy. It’s taken forever to decide what point of view I want to use, and have finally settled on first person. The other big question mark was about where to start the darned thing. For better or worse, I’ll be using a lot of flashbacks, in order to start where the real action is, but most of them will be very short, some as short as a single sentence.

And I just had a flash. One effect of the flashbacks is to show that Harte is obsessed with the past, especially about his dead friend, Zack. I hadn’t thought of him as being obsessed, but now I can see that it’s an important part of his personality and influences how he sees the world around him. Yes, even after five years of working with this project, I’m still learning about the central character.

It’s very possible that this will be my first novel that’s developed from a full-scale outline. I don’t normally do outlines because my stories are usually straight chronologies and I can allow them to grow organically. Boy is a different kind of beast. Not only will there be many, many flashbacks, but the story will move from the main events to where Harte is, geographically and psychologically, after the main events.

I’m a little slow on the uptake, but I did finally realize that I’m not going to be able to pull together a coherent story from a vague idea of what happens when. So I pulled out my ancient copy of OmniOutliner, hoping that it still works after a multitude of Mac OS upgrades. And it does, by golly. I bought it in 2007, it’s been a few years since I used it, and I’d only used it for a variety of lists. Organizing a novel in it will be an entirely new experience. OmniOutliner has a notes feature that makes all the difference from using an old-fashioned outline. And of course, all modern outliners allow you to shift things around easily, which is probably going to happen a lot, but being able to insert notes is pretty crucial.

One reason I’ve been putting off serious work on Boy is its complexity and the potential for a lot of frustration in pulling everything together. Maybe, using the outliner, it won’t be the problem it was shaping up to be.

14 thoughts on “OmniOutliner to the Rescue

  1. I look forward to A Well-Educated Boy. I remember reading the bits you posted a while ago, and it sounds like there have been major developments in the story and the theme. I will also be interested in the new version of A Perfect Slave. I have a new computer and transferred a mass of documents from my laptop. In the big cleanup I found the earlier version, saved it to a file where I can find it again, and await the new one. I enjoy reading an author’s versions of a work. C.J. Cherryh has rewritten a few of her novels when she was able to regain copyright and make digital versions. I do not always understand the reasons for the changes, but the author clearly thinks more deeply about these things than any reader.

    I am glad you are regaining your writing energy.

    1. I know my memory is shot to hell, but an earlier version of A Perfect Slave? Are you sure? But, yes, Well-Educated Boy has gone through many changes since I came up with the original idea. It was going to be a fairly simple story. Hah!

      You aren’t the only one who sometimes has problems with commenting on WP. I’ll delete the unnecessary ones.

      1. Yes, A Perfect Slave. It is in rtf format, and is a copy created in March 2016 from what looks like something I copied from LJ into textedit, probably much before 2016. You note it as not a final draft but with a lot of editing. I am sure your final text is rather different.

        1. Wow, that tells you a lot about my memory, doesn’t it? I’m sure you’re right that I posted it on Live Journal. The only other possibility would have been AO3. The current version probably isn’t that much different, except for improving the writing in general, and fleshing it out in some areas.

  2. I sympathise with you over the complexity of Boy. Even at the 2nd last draft stage of my Brisbane novel, I’ve found a couple of scenes which I now think are in the wrong place – out of order. At this stage! Almost out of the woods with the print copy. Looking forward to being able to lift my head and get back to my own life, at least to some extent. You sound as if your energy levels are picking up. That’s good to hear.

    1. Frustrating isn’t it, that you can just about get to the end after an endless number of drafts, and still find something wrong? But at least you’re making progress.

      What’s weird is that my energy level hardly ever has anything to do with my ability to pound the keyboard. My mental and physical ups and down work on different schedules. Right now, I have very little energy because my experiment with reducing one of my meds isn’t working out. But the brain insists that’s unimportant. I’m grateful for as long as it lasts.

  3. Glad you’re writing. Feeling writerly, even when the body is not obeying. Hope your experiments give you the answers you can tolerate, as soon as possible.

    I’m stuck. On one little scene. It has to make sense, to be inevitable. It isn’t yet. I could never go on – I did that with the very rough draft, and I am stuck here, where I went around and used hand-wavium before. Nope. Taking a stand.

    Organizing and outlining, and whatever it is that I do, are exactly that: thus far, and no more. Order imposed on chaos.

    Because fiction, unlike life, is supposed to make sense.

    1. No handwaving allowed. It leads to very bad outcomes. One unfortunate one (doesn’t always happen, thank goodness) is that when you’ve rewritten the scene so it makes sense, it makes nonsense of some previous part you think you’re finished with, and then *that* has to be rewritten.

      1. Which is exactly why I write front to end. I am NOT fiddling with the middles once I’m done. I know where I am, what’s gone before, and what has to happen in this scene to move us toward the predetermined end. No rewriting middles.

        It’s lack of brainpower to do so. If you saw how I freaked out ( when I found a very small one, you’d pat me on the head and let me write as linearly as possible.

        1. My mind is completely nonlinear, so much so, that basic organization is sometimes a problem. The more complex the story, the bigger and more frequent the problems. Turning to outlining, for however well that may or may not work for me, is sort of an unconscious acknowledgement of that. I usually don’t mind going back and rewriting, but it would be nice not to *have* to do it so often.

          1. I almost never go back at all – but the cost of that is not being able to move on until I’m completely happy with the present scene. Suits me, but some people would say that means I can’t work on other things when I’m stuck, which would drive them nuts.

            For me, I just know that the scene won’t fit without changes to what comes after if I don’t make the decisions when I write it.

            To each her own.

            1. Everyone has their own working style. I’m one of those who’d go nuts if I couldn’t go ahead and work on other parts until the problem comes unstuck. But that’s just me.I don’t understand why people get so upset if you follow a different path from theirs.

              1. I NEVER recommend people follow MY writing methods. They’d have to learn a lot (Dramatica in particular, Scrivener, Pixelmator…), and I have NO way of shortening the learning curve for anyone.

                But maybe it makes other writers feel better about their more efficient methods.

                And maybe it makes readers feel I’m working hard for them.

                Or maybe it’s just me. In which case, I’m old enough to enjoy just me.

  4. Alicia, what I find about those stuck bits is that you have to hit your hit against the wall for a long time before the answer eventually comes to you, seemingly out of the blue. I had a little breakthrough last night in bed, which I’m really happy with. Let’s hope your breaktrhough comes soon.

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