Please join me in welcoming Alex J. Cavanaugh! It's always a treat when Alex stops by and shares his insight and experience. Known to his blog followers as the Ninja Captain, Alex is the author of several books, including his newest release, Dragon of the Stars.
Outlining – How to Avoid a Messy First Draft
By Alex J. Cavanuagh
Some people can sit down and just start writing. Some need an outline and a plan. (I’m definitely the latter.) If you’re not one to outline and would like to learn or maybe you struggle with outlines, then I hope you benefit from my steps from idea to a published book.
I’m going to use my latest, Dragon of the Stars, as an example.
The idea came to me from a song. Ayreon’s Dragon on the Sea tells the tale of Queen Elizabeth I sending Sir Francis Drake to face the Spanish Armada. I envisioned a Dragon spaceship, and mulled the idea over for many years.
Endings always come to me first, and the sight of the Dragon ship battling invaders stuck in my head. That would be my ending. From that point, I brainstormed what made this ship unique and how did it come into being. I worked back from the ending until I had a solid premise.
This is where an outline is really beneficial. I wrote down the highlights from beginning to end. I kept the character arc in mind and added layers to that as I continued to expand my outline. Characters are crucial to me, and I wanted to ensure that the main character underwent a transformation. (Otherwise he’d be weak and anemic and need a transfusion instead.)
Then I noted where I needed research. I focused on world building–what was the main character’s home world like? What was the climate, the industry, the politics? What about the Dragon itself? What fueled the ship? I spent some time looking up details and facts so I could give the story a solid foundation.
Once I felt the outline was full and ready, I ran it by a critique partner. Not everyone does this, but I wanted to be sure there was enough for a quality story. He gave me some suggestions, which led to new ideas of my own.
By this time, the outline was several pages long and I had numerous pages of research. I read over it many times, looking for the proper beats and any holes in the story. I fleshed it out even more. Once I realized I was adding a lot of details, I knew it was time to simply start writing the story.
That might sound like a lot of work. And it was! From the time I began working on the outline to its completion was several months. But here is where all that planning pays off–once I completed that first draft, it wasn’t a big mess. After a month of revisions, I was ready to send it to test readers. After that was another month of revisions and then it went to my critique partners.
Outlines aren’t for everyone. But if you are frustrated with a messy first draft and hate the revision process, it might be worth a try. I may loathe that first draft, but editing afterwards is a lot more enjoyable!
Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
Dancing Lemur Press, LLC http://www.dancinglemurpress.
What Are the Kargrandes? http://whatarethekargrandes.
The ship of legends…
The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?
One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?
Purchase Dragon of the Stars
Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.
I dislike outlining, so I think I'll give Alex's advice a try. How about you, do you like to outline? What helps with your first draft?