It started out thin, but as I add ingredients it becomes richer and richer. I am 25 chapters into the outline and have a hard time pulling myself away from it to do more mundane things – like eat or sleep.
I’ve been asked about the level of detail I put into each chapter description in my outline. It really depends on the chapter.
Most are a few paragraphs that describe the action in rough terms. I prefer this, I don’t want to feel locked-in. This allows me to riff a little when I sit down to write the chapter in full.
In a few cases, however, I go into great detail, especially if the action involves historical events or real locations. I don’t want to get this wrong. If my details are inaccurate, or worse, false, then it will call everything else into question.
For example, I read a thriller several years ago which was set during World War Two. The sense of period and place seemed to be perfect in my mind until the author used the term “serial killer”. I knew from my own research that this is an expression that has only been in use since the 1970s when it was coined by an FBI profiler.
It was a detail that made me call into question other parts of the book and their credibility and spoiled what, until then, had been a pretty good read.
As the saying goes, the devil’s in the details.
So the rule here is – there is no rule. I treat each chapter differently based on what I think I will need when I start to write the first draft.
On another subject…
When I delivered the manuscript of DOUBLE TAP to Amy yesterday afternoon we got into a brief discussion about character names. This reminded me of an article on the subject that I read a few years ago in WRITER’S DIGEST magazine.