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What Good Is An Outline?
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As Mary and I finished our outline of Seven For A Secret we knew we were envisioning scenes which would never occur. No matter how carefully we plan, our stories inevitably find their own course during the writing. Even when they end up where we expected, they take some surprising turns on the way. The discrepancy between our plan and the ultimate reality (or fiction as it were...) is most pronounced toward the end.

In this case we quickly cobbled together our detective's resolution of a perplexing conundrum. We know that we'll think of a better solution during months of writing than we could possibly come up with in a day or two. Our detective, John, will naturally devise the same clever solution in a few moments. That's what makes him so much smarter than we are.

However, outlines aren't without some value. We know before even starting that we aren't headed down a path our editor simply won't like -- which is reassuring. We don't have to fret about whether the basic idea will appeal but only about executing it correctly.

The outline also gives our editor a chance to see holes in the plot that we may have missed. It's easier to correct the blueprint than repair the bridge after it collapses.

We've removed superfluous characters before they emerged from our imaginations. There's nothing worse than eradicating people you've created. It feels like drowning helpless creatures in a pail of water.

In the case of Six For Gold it was suggested to us that we rigorously alternate chapters of the story which took place in Egypt with the one unreeling in Constaninople -- rather than darting about randomnly -- and that seemed to work well.

Who knows what changes the current outline may yet undergo. All we know is that when it comes to the ending, any changes we decide on now won't matter much in a few months.

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