Monday, August 13, 2007

Writing what I know

I’m almost finished outlining my next manuscript. I have the beginning and ending firmly in mind and most of the characters fleshed out. I have several scenarios and ways to segue between them. I don’t know if I’m writing a novel or a novella or a short story. It depends on how long it takes to tell the story without drifting off into fluff and filler.

This will be a great exercise for me in description. Just putting together the outline has taken me out of my bottom line comfort zone and allowed me to try using some of the techniques my fellow bloggers have been discussing to enrich my characters, situations and places – trying to paint pictures with words.

I need the outline for the same reason I need my lists. I have a short attention span and am easily distracted. Having the outline helps me focus. Originally it consisted of brief descriptions of the beginning and ending scenes. Now it’s several pages of notes and ideas that seem to be popping into my brain faster than fireworks on the 4th of July. It’s self-expanding like a bag of microwave popcorn.

I really wasn’t concerned about it until I mentioned to a friend that the main character was a woman in her 50’s. Her comment was, “Who wants to read about a woman in her 50’s?” Uh, Me? I’m trying to write what I know best. If I can draw a rich portrait of her and her situation and populate the book with interesting situations and characters, what’s wrong with having an older main character? Do they all have to be in their 20’s to 40’s to be interesting?

What do you think?


Church Lady said...

Oh, I think a woman in her 50s is very colorful. I think they're funny and honest and have so many stories.

Great going with your outline!! Sounds very detailed.

Merry Jelinek said...

I'm going to try outlining on my next one - I've always been a write by the seat of my pants kind of person, but then the editing is much harder because there are so many scenes I don't need or characters that need more flesh by the end.

I don't think there's anything wrong with a main character in her fifties.. people automatically think young is more marketable but one of the biggest demographics for book buyers has to be the female baby boomers, and fifty is no longer 'old' - or maybe it's just the closer I get the younger it looks ;-) Either way, I think you have to be true to the character - and why is it no one grouses about an older male character?

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I don't participate in age discrimination with my characters--sometimes older is better (like with an immortal vampire or something). :)

As for outlining, I tend to write synopses. Boy are those suckers easier to write before the book's written!

Thanks for visiting.

Katrina Stonoff said...

The age group that is purchasing the most books and reading the most books is 41-60. As a firm member of that demographic, let me assure you we want to read about people like us, only smarter and prettier and skinnier. But not younger. ;-)

Lillie Ammann said...

Congratulations on your outline. I think a woman in her 50s is certainly a viable protagonist. I was told years ago that no one wanted to read about a heroine in a wheelchair, either. I think people like to read about people like themselves ... and, as has already been said, lots of women in their 50s are buying and reading books.

The Anti-Wife said...

I agree! We are funny and honest and have SO many stories!

Outlining keeps me on track and focused. I need it. Agree about no one grousing about an older man.

Nothing like an old blood-sucker! Now I just need something worth a synopsis!

Thanks for the info. I wouldn't trade places with anyone younger - maybe bodies, but not minds.

Maybe we're finally breaking down all the barriers to smart thinking. There should be a place for everyone in literature.

Thanks for the opinions and for stopping by everyone. Keep that encouragement coming!

ERiCA said...

Your heroine can be any age!!!

Take a look at Harlequin, for example. They have specific lines for specific readers and only market stuff they're positive they can sell. And they started the NEXT line specifically to target authors who write older heroines and readers who love to read them!

And I'm sure the non-category single title publishers have editors who love them too.

Now that I got that off my chest (*g) can we talk about this outline? How long is it? How detailed is it? I would love to write one before hand (because I firmly believe a synopsis gets harder and harder to write, the closer a novel-length story gets to being "done") but I haven't managed it yet. Best I can do is a four paragraph blurb/hook (which I almost always have before the story, a vague idea of what the black moment will contain, and a fairly solid idea of what the first major turning point will be.

So I'm not a total pantser or a total plotter... more of a plantser. Maybe I need to scoot a tad more toward the other end of the continuum. Hmmmmm....

ERiCA said...

Just noticed I have an orphan parenthese in my comment above. It was probably supposed to go between "before the story" and "a vague idea" but I guess I'll put it... here. *g)

Bernita said...

I remember Mrs. Polifax.
A couple of romance publishers have just requested novels in which the MCs are older women - so they must perceive there is a market.
And there's a British house - the name escapes me at the moment - that considers only mature women as MCs.
Liked your popcorn analogy!

The Anti-Wife said...

Shame on you. None of the rest of us ever make mistakes! ;)

Definitely feeling better about my older woman now. Sometimes I think the popcorn bag is going to explode before I get to eat the goodies.

wordtryst said...

I'd like to think that the sexist prejudice that women in their 50s+ are not interesting is on the way out.

I'm an outliner, but mine is a loose guide rather than a template, so I have some idea of where the story is going and how it gets there.