Where the Outline Fears to Tread

Last night I’d written a measly 90 words of a scene when I was rocked by an epiphany.

One thing I’ve struggled with since I undertook rewriting The Century is not having a firm outline.

Writing The Century

When I originally wrote The Century, it was about 60,000 words, but that was only Book 1. I considered it a trilogy at the time, until I listened to a Writing Excuses podcast that convinced me otherwise. But the structure was going to be odd, because the three books would then become three parts. And I only knew a few pivotal scenes of 2 and 3.

Future tactile touchscreens
“The future will not take away my gaudy accessories”
by B Zedan | Flickr

Since I never wrote Books 2 and 3, they were only vague in my mind. In fact, I couldn’t even outline for the new Part 2 until I was nearly finished writing the new Part 1. On Oct. 30, I began the Part 2 outline, but continued outlining as recently as Dec. 7! (See my writing record.) This was partly due to the huge jump in technology both in the real world and in my futuristic novel.

So it’s been a wild ride. I hadn’t really thought about Part 3 for a while, since I figured it would be the same—once I got near the end of Part 2, the specifics of Part 3 would begin making themselves known.

Lightning Strikes Again

I’m now slightly beyond midway (wordcount: >50,000), and as I was writing a scene I knew would foreshadow a great deal of the ending, I was struck by the epiphany. (Last time I had this feeling was in January, while working on The Ageless.) I’d assumed the scene I was writing last night would foreshadow a few things, but suddenly it was like I could see the whole ending.

Basically, it felt as mind-blowing to me as a writer as reading the end of a Brandon Sanderson novel feels to me as a reader. I hope that when I finish writing The Century, it’ll feel every bit as mind-blowing to my readers as that moment of epiphany felt to me last night.

Planners vs. Pantsters 

So my point in all of this is that writing The Century has been a weird hybrid of outlining and “discovery writing” aka “panstering.”

In general, I’m an outliner. I spend a good deal of time generating ideas, writing down notes, researching, and just putting my thoughts together. Then I start to let the coalesce into scenes, which I then try to put into some semblance of chronological order. Although sometimes scenes get added, moved around, or deleted as I begin writing, the general outline tends not to deviate too much.

At least, that’s how I used to work. And that’s how the Ageless worked, which made me comfortable that I knew what I was doing.

The Century has been an outline-as-I-go story. Every story offers its own unique challenges, and as I’ve heard before, in writing each new story, we learn to write as if for the first time. That has definitely been the case.


In addition to the holiday madness, I also started a Google+ Community for writers of science fiction and fantasy, called the Speculative Fiction Writers Community. In one week, we gained over 300 members.

Speculative Fiction Writers Community: science fiction and fantasy

It’s been great fun for me, and I already feel like I’ve learned a lot about building a community for people with similar interests. I hope to one day apply this experience to building a community of readers.

So far the Speculative Fiction Writers have covered topics ranging from biopunk to writing the near-future, from religion in fantasy to sexuality in non-romance novels, and from how to autograph digital books to finding character voice. It’s been a great resource for me so far. I hope the other members are enjoying it as much as I am.

Do you enjoy hanging out in online communities or groups where everyone shares your interests? Have you ever felt like you had a sudden moment of clarity or epiphany? Take the poll below! Then come find me as +Traci Loudin on Google+, the perfect place for fans of science fiction and fantasy to hang out.

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