Brian Niemeier on the brilliantly superversive L. Jagi Lamplighter

pens the following essay on the growth and construction of a manuscript over at the Superversive blog.

Honestly, my approach to preparing works for submission has varied depending on the length, market, and even genre of the piece; and my system continues to evolve as I learn more from experience and research. (NB: I highly recommend On Writing by Stephen King, especially for newcomers to the craft.)

On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the CraftNevertheless, I thought I’d give a rundown of my current favored method for writing and revising manuscripts. Who knows? Someone may find it useful.

Outline: most fiction authors create outlines of their novels before the writing actually starts. There’s no set format or length for outlines; they can range in size from scene-by-scene summaries of the book to one or two page sketches. Some authors (like King) don’t outline at all. Trial and error have shown me that I am not one of them. My novel outlines generally run 5-10 pages; for short stories it’s usually 1 or 2–enough to set the bounds of the story and chart the narrative structure.

By way of explanation, I tend to structure each of my novels as a succession of multiple three act or seven point narratives within an overarching frame. So I make sure to note every hook, complication, climax, and resolution in the outline.

First Draft: when I start writing, I more or less follow the outline, filling in the blanks while giving myself enough flexibility to draw outside the lines if it serves the story. I estimate that I stick to the outline about 60 percent of the time, and about 40 percent is improvised.

Only I ever see my first draft. It’s not for anyone else.


Editing: so far, I’ve had one novel-length manuscript professionally edited. I was so impressed with the results, provided by the brilliantly superversive L. Jagi Lamplighter, that I plan on hiring a knowledgeable, experienced freelancer to edit every novel that I intend to publish independently.

Read the whole thing: