Monday, June 16, 2008

The indefinable factor...

I'm finally making a bit of progress with my outline. I have to say it makes the story seem very pedestrian. The novel itself is so much more dynamic with tension and drama but the outline is just blah. Is this how its meant to be? Its hard to make 'they have an argument' sound as tempestuous as the scene is in the novel. I'll finish up a first draft and fire it off to the agent tomorrow and see what she says.

I'm a bit divided over outlines. Its fantastic to have a clear idea of where i'm going with the story and how all the different bits fit together and play out and then tie up at the end. But on the flipside i find the whole concept a little like a straightjacket. When I begin I don't have every single element of the story sorted and I want to see what my characters do before i get over prescriptive about how they're going to end up. I also don't have the story properly broken down into chapters either. Chapter endings and beginnings tend to present themselves as I go along and at the moment I prefer this. Outline styles must differ depending on who is writing them so i will assume that I can do it my way within a broader framework.

I came across an interesting post today on Nathan Bransford's blog (Mr Bransford is an agent in San Francisco). While he's always looking for queriers who have followed the submission guidelines, are polite and professional with good grammar and have spelt his name right, there is always the indefinable factor that will get him to ask for more from the author. There are no rules or guidelines for this factor. No lessons available on how to 'do' it. The indefinable factor is different for different agents and different publishers and different readers. Its the same factor that makes you go wow or keeps you reading when you pick up a new book. If the book doesn't have it, you put it back on the booksellers shelf or the library shelf or where-ever. We don't like every book we see but someone at some stage saw something in the story that made them want to represent it or publish it or pick it up and buy it - or borrow it - and read it. I can't tell you how to put the indefinable factor into your story. For me I sometimes feel like it happens by magic. Sometimes the harder I reach for it, the more elusive it becomes. But if someone rejects your story and didn't see that indefinable factor, that doesn't mean the next person won't see it. One person's rejection is not the final word.

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