Friday 10 March 2017

Outlining a novel.

**Spoilers, of course.**

I am often asked how much planning I do for my books. I generally answer that I'm a gardener rather than an architect and that I follow where the story leads me. I find it more interesting and motivating if I don't know what's going to happen next.

However, publishing is a business and publishers, particularly the accounts department, like to feel they are in control of where things are headed. A business needs to manage its risk, or convince its shareholders that it's doing so.

So, "I'll make it up as I go, trust me!" doesn't really fly with them. At least not until you've earned that trust.

When I was nearing a three-book deal with Ace (and Voyager) on the strength of Prince of Thorns (titled "The Hundred War" at that point), I was asked for an outline for book 2, and 3 if possible.

I sent one back for book 2 the same day. I think it took me an hour or so to write. I didn't do one for book 3.

This is what I sent them for King of Thorns, as it's now known.

I never referred back to it, but clearly some of the ideas stuck and made it into the finished novel. Others were left out entirely, and large sections that appeared in the book weren't included at all here.

Anyway, it did the job. I got the deal.

King of Thorns outline.

Issues -

Queen Sareth births competing heir, Jorge's half brother

Gog becoming fire-mage - likely to die - Gorgoth plays a role

Has grandfather on the Horse Coast (mother's father) - will seek an alliance there

Insert more modern tech issues.

Very powerful faction will threaten Renar and Ancrath kingdoms - possible alliance with father.

Chella and Sageous to return.

Jorge's death magic to grow and cause problems.

(2 threads one now (18) one 3 years earlier (15) - the now finds him about to be overwhelmed by the army of Arrow (with Katherine leading/featuring in it) and also about to get married to 'some girl'. Also he is haunted by the ghost of a child (3 years old) and has a terrible memory in a box.

The current thread is desparate preparations for defence.

The past thread is the below where we learn why Katherine uber-hates him, why the child is haunting him and toward the end find out who his bride is and where his help to withstand/defeat the Prince of Arrow comes from.

Jorge needs more men - Renar is a copper-crown kingdom. There is a power moving in the Ken Marshes. Baron Kennick has been over-run by his neighbour the Prince of Arrow and this huge army now threatens both Renar and Ancrath.

Jorge wants an alliance with his Grandfather's people on the Horse Coast and sets off leaving Coddin and Makin to guard his throne. He's travelling as a Road-Brother with his old crew because no amount of soldiers is going to keep him safe, it will just attract attention. Gog and Gorgoth stay at the Haunt. The wild fire is growing rapidly in Gog and threatening to destroy him. Jorge sees a parallel between Gog and himself. Both haunted by a lost brother, both with something wild burning in them, threating destruction.

Whilst skirting Ancrath border he learns that his step-mother has given birth to a son. Jorge decides to pay a call on his half-brother and maybe renew acquaintances with his aunt Katherine. This will require stealth and subtlty - skills that have not been top of Jorge's list this far

Jorge meets Katherine in woods near the Tall Castle. She turns down his advances. She isn't attracted to him.

Jorge watches Katherine from her window ledge sleeping. He moves on and with a little throat slitting gets his hands on the new-born heir. He holds the child agonizing over whether to kill it. The child dies in his hands - the death magic just seeps into him and stops his heart. His horror at what he has done feeds into rage and Katherine wakes to see him racing from the child's room. He nearly strikes her down. He escapes, rejoins the brothers, and sets off for the Horse Coast, haunted by the baby.

The ghosts of Jorge's life blow wilder than the wind - they follow him. On the journey he starts to go insane. They cross a rad-desert and Jorge encounters a seer, a traveller from the Utter East, possibly tutor Lundist's father. The seer helps him recover his way - the bad memory is put in a box.

Takes ship the last leg of the journey to avoid an unwholesome section of the coast where the corpse-eaters live.

Arrives at grandfather's castle on a rocky prominentry (shaped like a horse's head). Insinuates himself into service to learn about his relatives. Discovers they have a machine beneath the castle that in addition to powering some lights and doors will also replicate a non-functioning mechanical version of any animal placed in a chamber. It also generates a hologram of an annoying Builder who evades questions. Eventually Jorge tricks it into powering up a stainless steel wolf.

At the castle Jorge saves his uncle (mother's younger brother and heir to the throne) from an assassination and reveals himself to grandfather. The alliance is sealed with a marriage to his cousin and grandfather pledges ships and men to Jorge's aid.

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  1. Good to know that not every author likes to have a clear plan of where there writing is going.

    I guess some writers like a map and others like to just plunge into the wilderness.

  2. I'm impressed by how simply and straightforward it is.

  3. I want to read King again now. Why so little time??

  4. I enjoy your writing. Thank you.

  5. I wish someone would lock you in a room with nothing but a commode, a sink and an old fashioned type writer. Then only sent in food and water in exchange for new chapters.