Carving lines on the jail cell wall

I’ve been continuing with outlining process on … … … you know I really have to come up with a pseudonym for the novel project until I run into a title I’m happy with. OK then, from henceforth the current novel project shall be called … (cosiders momentarily) … SWORD! What do you mean it’s odd sounding? Oh well…at least I can live with it.

At current rate the outlining of SWORD looks like ot could take weeks, but really I just need to clear a day and get it done. I’m still feeling very positive about the outline process at the moment and am really looking forward to being able to sit down to the writing itself with a little less mental clutter and just being able top focus on the chapter at hand. In the debate of ‘outline vs. improvisation’ I’m coming down firmly on the side of the planning camp. In fact I’ve decided that anyone who writes fiction of any complexity and tells you they DON’T outline is either lying or self-deluded. And you can tell them I said that.

I’ve also been in short story land this week. There is an open call from BBC 7 for short fiction for braodcast, which interested me because I’m such a fan of Escape Pod and Pseudopod and Podiobooks. The BBC 7 programme makes it farly clear they aren’t interested in cutting edge SF or Fantasy so I resurrected an old idea  thought might fulfill their criteria, but really my heart just wasn’t in it. Its always a mistake to write for a specific opportunity unless it genuienly matches the actual direction of your writing so I’ve put the BBC opportunity to one side for now. However, I am submitting ‘Cthul-YOU’ to Weird Tales this week. My newly drawn up chart of my story submissions shows me that this is my only unpublished story on the market now. There are MANY other unpublished stories in my folio but as I get to know the markets better there are none I will send out again without some serious revisions. I also have some new ideas requiring a new style for shorts stories that I’m going to make the time to get into in the next few months. There is something about the short fiction mags like WT, Asimovs etc that I’m really growing to appreciate. Some of them have been around for so long that just getting a story into them feels like becoming a part of some strange alternative history (hmmm…that feels like a story stubb…). If I can possibly find the time whilst working on the novel and other commitments I really want to get some words down that will get into print on their pages.

For now however the outline for SWORD is the priority. Keep scratching away D.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

3 thoughts on “Carving lines on the jail cell wall

  1. outlining … interesting … i watched a docu on john irving a while ago where he said he knows exactly what will happen all the way through his books before he ever writes a line … i also had a conversation with a (prizewinning) novelist in edinburgh who said that outlining was nonsense and really writing novels was all about letting the characters guide you … i read his book and whilst he is a wonderful writer and the characters were brilliantly done … there was no PLOT … the novel was episodic and didn’t compell the reader along …
    i have written two books – the first i didn’t outline at all apart from a vague idea of where it might go in my head … it was a terrible woolly saggy nonsense of a book … the second book i DID attend to plot and though it isn’t brilliant it is much better …
    with the current book i have written down what happens but only roughly … chapter by chapter what should happen …
    i’ll be interested to follow your outlining experience … knowing what comes next chapter wise has certainly helped me ….


  2. Damien – I do, like, little planning on paper (well not much more than what is on my blog) before sitting down and writing. Its, Like, afterwards when I do the planning and sort out structure… guess I’m just backwards!


  3. Juliet E Mckenna made the point at a talk she gave in Leicester that the only writers she knows who don’t outline have very understanding wives who look after them whilst they rewrite 50k of an 80k novel when they realise the entire structure is wrong.


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