Sunday, March 13, 2011

Outlining Benefits

Fortunately, I can be a bit obsessive when it comes to outlining. And, never was it more helpful than this week. I have planned a series of novels, twelve in all, spanning fifteen years. Each novel, though a series, is a stand alone mystery, set in ancient Egypt. Some of the characters will appear in every novel, some will appear frequently, some will feature in one or two.

The first novel is complete and I am doing a final edit on it, while I am hard at work on book two. As I was merrily typing away, I needed a piece of information from the first book - no problem. To verify it, I checked my character sheet, and then it hit me. I could not remember if I had aged the characters. At the end of book one, I remembered adding information to the character sheets, but I couldn't remember if I had changed their ages.

After a complete read of the first book, I took out the outlines for the remaining books in the series. I noted next to the name of each character what age they will be at the time the book takes place. I know this may sound strange, but when writing a series, it is important to the reader to keep consistency. I used to read the Erle Stanley Gardner Perry Mason mysteries. It always fascinated me that his characters, written over many years, never seemed to age.

Being obsessive when writing takes time - some may say it takes the fun out of the creative process. To me, I would rather do the obsessing in the beginning, having the basics under control, so I am free to create each book and see where my characters, aging gracefully, will lead me with each adventure we take together.

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