Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Outline, schmoutline

My writing process would make most professionals cringe. I've never been one for outlines. I just jump in to my stories with both feet and see where they take me. I'm just as surprised as anyone when a story takes an unexpected turn, or if a character does something out of the ordinary. Honestly, I feel like I'm an unseen reporter in the corner, writing furiously as the characters interact with each other without any interference from me.

In high school, I remember having to turn in outlines before we wrote essays or term papers. I actually wrote the papers first. It was already in my head and came out almost perfectly organized with little tweaking needed. I would then make my outline from the finished product. The cart waay before the horse. I'm sure that if the teacher changed something in my outline, I would then do the same to the essay, but it just seemed so pointless to me.

Essays, apparently, are very different from books. I'm assuming length has the most to do with it, which is directly tied to my brain capacity. Eighty some odd pages came flowing out of me almost effortlessly for this book, but then my characters started yawning, lolling about and fiddling with their frocks. Subsequently, someone glanced over my way, did a double-take, and told the others I was there. Now they are staring at me and waiting. I wished I dressed better for the occasion.

They did work hard, so I decided to give them a respite. I left them alone and let myself be distracted for several days when a great screenplay idea came to me (actually this book sparked it.) I thought that when I came back to my book, the characters would be rested and ready to move forward, and to surprise me once again. I was wrong.

So, I think it's time for an outline. Goals, really. A checklist of sorts, and unlike outlines, I LOVE checklists. So does my husband. There is nothing quite as satisfying as being able to check something off of an official check list with a big flourish and pen leaving the paper and flying up in the air. Last year, my husband and I were getting ready for a vacation, and we both had our separate lists. We were checking things off and getting things done, when he looked over at me with a glint in his eye and said, "I have never been more attracted to you than I am at this very moment." Needless to say, we had to add something else to our lists. :0)

Translating that to my book--I can make a list of things I want to happen and check them off as I go. What do I want to happen? Where should it happen? How do I get this particular character to do this? What or who will be a wrench and keep Elizabeth and Darcy apart just a little while longer? So much better than a boring and restricting outline! I like the openness of it, I can add another line at anytime. Yes, this checklist idea will be the ticket. I can't wait to get to it. Good thing my husband is at work.

Here's a little something for you until next time. Elizabeth came to stay in London with her aunt and uncle, and they are hosting a dinner party that Mr. Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam have been invited to. Elizabeth knows that people are talking about her and both of the gentlemen, and is not looking forward to the get together. Thanks for keeping up with me, and Miss Austen? Please forgive me...


Friday night came too quickly. Elizabeth considered having a great headache, but she knew how disappointed her aunt would be, if not suspicious. Georgiana would not be coming as Elizabeth had wished. Elizabeth had called on her and promised her that she would not leave her alone for one moment, but Georgiana would have none of it. She begged Elizabeth to forgive her, and claimed she was too young and too awkward for a formal dinner party. Of course Elizabeth forgave her, and the two played duets on Georgiana’s pianoforte until just before the gentlemen were expected home, and Elizabeth felt the need to leave.

Elizabeth helped Mrs. and Mr. Gardiner welcome their guests. Mrs. Boyle came with her ancient husband, and was happy to tell Elizabeth that her grandson was very pleased by her looks and manners, and would not be sorry to dance with her again if the occasion arose. But she also kindly warned Elizabeth not to set her hat on him, since he was still young and very susceptible to pretty faces, and hadn’t learned the merits of what a good match meant. All this had to be repeated very loudly so Mr. Boyle and the servants downstairs could hear that Elizabeth should not set her hat on their precious, scrawny heir apparent. Elizabeth began to think that her name suited her perfectly, and wished for her permanent removal.

Mrs. Gardiner set an elegant table, and after drinks, Elizabeth found herself sitting next to none other than Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth knew it was by design, and tried not to blush when she realized where she would be spending the next hour and a half. She rose to the occasion and graciously smiled and talked to everyone around her. She was in the middle of listening to a Mrs. Grey speak of her recent visit to court where the Prince Regent had fallen asleep during the knighting of the Duke of Somethingshire, when Mrs. Boyle’s shrill voice came up significantly in volume from the opposite end of the table.

“No, dearest! She only has one thousand after her mother’s death, not one thousand per annum! Poor dear. That would be at least something!”

Elizabeth froze for a moment, and she could see that a few faces had turned to her. Quickly and graciously, her dear uncle remarked on something humorous that happened outside of the House of Commons and everyone’s attention was diverted. Almost everyone’s. A low voice spoke next to her.

“Perhaps we should just get cards printed out for you, so no one is confused on the subject, Miss Bennet.”

Elizabeth looked over at Mr. Darcy who was smiling, but not necessarily teasing. She felt so grateful that he was not repulsed by her situation, and that he was making an effort to lighten the situation.

She smiled back at him. “I don’t think that will be necessary while Mrs. Boyle still breathes, Mr. Darcy.”

Darcy lowered his voice further and leaned in a little bit closer to her ear. “Well, we can always hope for a well placed pheasant bone to block her air passage,” he mused.

Elizabeth's eyes widened. Mr. Darcy had made a joke and a very good one! She had to use her napkin to hide a sudden burst of laughter, and Col. Fitzwilliam looked over from across the table noticing their camaraderie.

Elizabeth recovered and whispered back, but while facing her own plate. “You shock me, Mr. Darcy. I did not think that you were capable of such indecorous thoughts. I was under the opinion that I alone was guilty of such things.”

“Not at all, Miss Bennet. Great minds think alike.” And with that, he took a drink of his wine. Elizabeth did the same and looked up to notice Col. Fitzwilliam smiling at her. She quickly returned it.


  1. Thank you for posting a little chunk of your book! I loved it and can't wait to read more. I like that you are are adding a little wit to it, just like Jane. KUTGW! (Did i just make that up, or is it real?)

    P.S. I love making lists too.

  2. P.P.S. Hilarious artwork, btw. I really did lol.

  3. Glad you liked what I posted from my book, and the artwork, Tracykins. Photoshop is fun. I still haven't made my checklist, but today is a nice rainy day. Maybe I'll get inspired.

    KUTGW???--it took a minute, but is it "keep up the good work?" Never seen that one, but I like it. :0)

  4. Hi, Amy! Thanks for the sample of your work - I thought it was awesome and I can't wait to read more! I got a laugh out of your comment about Matthew MacFayden's (sp??) portrayal of Darcy - I thought the same thing . . . before I watched it a few times. Just like you, after a while I saw just how perfect he was for that part - and, was it me, or did he get better looking the more you watched him?

    Anyway, thanks for posting your work and I'll definitely check back for more!

    P.S. I am also a list maker!

  5. Hello back there, Aimi!

    Thanks so much for leaving a comment. I definitely agree that Matthew MacFadyen improves greatly with each viewing. I'm beginning to think he's down right handsome now. I'm glad you enjoyed my blog and am also glad you're a fan of checklists. I'm making myself do my checklist today, because I'm still completely stalled and don't know where to take my characters. Wish me luck!

  6. Good job! Mrs. Boyle made me laugh. Actually Elizabeth's thoughts about Mrs. Boyle made me laugh. And having Darcy joke with her quietly is sort of sexy, or am I just a perv? :{)

    Keep the excerpts coming,


  7. Greetings Maria,

    So glad Mrs. Boyle made you smile. I completely agree with you that the tete-a-tete between Darcy and Elizabeth was charged with sexual tension. I personally think it's more powerful than having clothes fly everywhere. Please visit again...