Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pros and Cons of Outlining

Most writers fall into two categories: those who outline before writing and those who just write. In my case, I tend to utilize both methods. I like knowing ahead of time where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. However, I also enjoy the freedom of taking a detour if the original road contains too many speed bumps. No matter what method you personally prefer, there are pros and cons that every writer experiences during the writing process.

Let’s examine the pros and cons of outlining first.

1. It’s too restrictive. There are those who stick to the game plan and avoid the unbeaten path altogether. If that makes you feel comfortable, then by all means stick with it, but there’s a certain sense of being shackled to an original thought that could potentially stall the formation of a better idea.

2. There are no surprises. Surprises in writing are always fun for the reader, but when they happen to the writer, they aren’t necessarily good things. An outline eliminates any unwanted surprises such as a hole in your plot, the introduction of any unnecessary characters, or a storyline that’s choppy and doesn’t flow the way it should.

3. They keep you on task. Just like a ‘To Do’ list, an outline tells you where you need to go and what you need to do. It allows you to plan out what you’re writing that day and helps make your storyline flow more seamlessly.

4. Outlines ensure flow and help make for a more structurally sound plot. An outline is structure. When you know exactly what events are going to transpire and when they’re going to transpire it makes for a better constructed plot and less of a chance of cracks in your overall foundation.

Although more spontaneous, writing by the seat of your pants isn’t for everyone, but for those who do it, the following positive and negative aspects may be encountered:

1. Your creativity is allowed to shine through. Like a kid in a candy store, the possibilities are both endless and exciting when you write unrestricted and let your mind take you to places and people it wouldn’t have had you stuck with the original plan.

2. More writing is accomplished in less time. I know when I write by the seat of my pants, I feel freer and the words just come to me more naturally than when I try to restrict them to the content of an outline. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s more of a detriment, but I usually find that my word count for the day is higher and, for the most part, the content is solid when I write outline-free.

3 There’s more room for error. When you write without rules to go by, you’re more apt to break them. An outline lays out scene by scene instructions, ensuring a more fluid, relatively smoother writing experience without the standard errors that come without proper planning.

4. It can end up bogging you down. Even though you may write more when you let your mind take over, you may find that you end up doing a heck of a lot more editing. More words equal more filler and less meat to your story, subsequently leading to the trimming away of more fat.. You may find that this causes you to take more time with editing than you first anticipated, making this method of writing less productive in the long run.

At the end of the day, there really is no wrong way to write and no one manner of writing is better than the other. Different things work for different people. What matters is that it works for you and that you’re actually writing something as opposed to just staring at a blank sheet of paper.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: The Dim Realm Volume I- An Epic Horror/Fantasy Novel for our Generation

“Afraid goes away after a fright, but terror lingers. It gets into your head, builds a nest, continues to work on you. It pulls stuff out to feed its young.”

This quote from Matt Holgate’s epic horror/fantasy/action/thriller The Dim Realm Volume I, speaks volumes for the chilling and brilliantly written story Mr. Holgate has created. I’m not normally a fan of the horror genre, but this book is so much more than that. It’s also a mystery mixed with fantasy that felt a little Lord of the Rings like, and I can’t say enough about the writing. In my opinion, it’s one of the most well-written, gripping indie books I’ve read. The plot is unique and obviously well thought out with dialogue that is spot-on and quips that had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. It’s also tense, a little gory at times (but not overly so), and left me wanting for more after finishing it as it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger (wherein I immediately purchased Volume II).

As far as the plot is concerned, The Dim Realm takes place in the small town of Arrow’s Flight where mysterious disappearances are occurring among the townsfolk as well as grisly slaughters, including those of many of the King’s men. What evil has possessed Arrow’s Flight? Who can be trusted? Where is the dark house of Kara Kinfolk’s (one of the main character’s) nightmares, and why has she been chosen to receive these visions? These are just some of the many questions plaguing the inhabitants and visitors of Arrow’s Flight, who find themselves trapped within its confines, unable to leave.

Although there are several very likeable, very well-written characters in The Dim Realm, the one who stands out the most for me is Kara Kinfolk. Kara, though only seventeen, is wise beyond her years, strong, and a complete smart ass -- in short, she’s my kind of girl. She also seems to be one of the more important characters in the book as it’s through her dreams that the rest of the characters, including ranger Tal Stormgren, who I also liked a great deal, are able to unravel the source of the evil that has invaded their town. Keeping in the fantasy genre, The Dim Realm also includes orcs, dwarves, and ogres interspersed with the main human characters. One of my favorite characters, the orc Rinn, was thoroughly entertaining, and I gained a newfound appreciation for the fantasy genre through Mr. Holgate‘s book.

In short, The Dim Realm Volume I is the start of an epic, edge of your seat, horror/fantasy with a solid, brilliantly constructed plot, well-written dialogue, and loveable (for the most part), well-written and unforgettable characters. It’s clear that Mr. Holgate put a lot of work into this book and it has surely paid off. In fact, I’m not much for highlighting passages in novels, but I found myself highlighting numerous quotes, thinking to myself that I’d wish I’d written them.

I highly recommend Mr. Holgate’s The Dim Realm Volume I and will be delving into Volume II soon.