New York Times  Bestselling Author

For the Lack of an Outline

happily ever after.jpg

The After the Storm revisions are finished!

As of yesterday, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, so I was able to get 8 hours of truly restorative sleep last night. After a few weeks of 5 hour nights, that was glorious! I knew I still had a problem with a few short chapters at the end (the denouement). This morning, I sat out on my porch and studied them until a lightbulb went off in my head. They were in the wrong order! I moved them around, and voila! Then I worked slowly but steadily, rearranging them on the computer, playing with wording and structure, and finally. . . finally. . . I typed The End.

Again. Because I’d already finished this book once, you might remember. And soon, my editor will send me the line edits and I’ll be at it once more. But for now, I need to simply savor those two beautiful words.

It came to me last night why these revisions were so hard for me. I believe it’s because I never truly outlined this book. I’m a notorious outliner, my outlines often stretching to fifty or sixty pages. But since After the Storm a) was a sequel and b) needed to be written in about half the time I usually take to write a book, I simply skipped that step. Instead, I jotted down a couple of pages of notes regarding the general themes in the book. The themes never did change, but jotting them down was a classic case of telling rather than showing, and the showing is always the challenge. Without an outline, a five-hundred page, very complex story told from four characters’ first-person points of view can get out of control very quickly, let me tell you! I will never skip outlining again. Ever.

Now, though, all is remarkably well. At least, I think it is. I’ll see if my editor agrees, but I have to say I was really pleased with the story by the time I typed The End. It made me weepy many times over. (as my previous post indicated, though, that might not mean a thing).

My characters are far better off than they were on page 1 (well. . . at least some of them are.). And I am definitely better off than I was a few days ago. Tomorrow, John and I leave for Topsail Island for my Thursday book signing at Quarter Moon Books. I’ve never been to TI during high season and I imagine it’s going to be quite the experience! I plan to eat seafood, sign books, watch fireworks with some of my new Topsail Island friends, and SLEEP.

Have a great July 4th, everyone! 

7 Comments

  1. Margo on July 2, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Diane, so happy you are ‘finito’! You deserve a nice break at Topsail Island where you and John can celebrate ‘the end’ of AFTER THE STORM. I’m very envious of all the readers who will get to meet you at Quarter Moon Books. Someday I vow to make it to 1 of your signings! Enjoy the beach & happy 4th! (-:

  2. brenda on July 2, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Diane, So happy for you. Have a great 4th!!! What a way to celebrate. You and John enjoy…To reiterate what Margo said, “Someday I vow to make it to one of your signings.” A friend in S. Carolina is going to meet me also…a member of my online bookclub…
    Enjoy…

  3. Diane Chamberlain on July 2, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Brenda, what’s your online club reading? My neighborhood bookclub is currently reading JULIE AND JULIA, nonfiction written by a thirty-year-old woman (Julie) who made all 524 of the recipes in Julia Child’s MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING in one year. I really didn’t like the book at first. I found Julie self-absorbed, snarky, and very very young. I decided I’d give it 100 pages. By then, though, she had me. Her irreverent writing style makes me laugh out loud. She’s still young, but I was a total idiot at 30, so I can’t throw very many stones. . . I’m almost finished with it. I’m taking THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride with me on this trip. I’ve wanted to read that one for a long time.

  4. Denise on July 2, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Congrats on finishing the book, and I am glad you finally got some well-deserved sleep! You deserve some rest after that marathon!
    I can not imagine how difficult it must have been to write ATS with no outline. I don’t know how you managed to keep all of your ideas, characters and sequence straight. You should pat yourself on the back several times!
    I promise that when I win a lottery I will fly to wherever you happen to be doing a signing!

  5. brenda on July 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    We are reading BEFORE THE STORM, of course…others we suggest monthly…sometimes we discuss, sometimes we do not. I just finished a great book by Deborah Smith-just found her…about a famous beautiful woman who was burned and scarred (her face)…Wow…I was burned as a small child and scarred, but the scars are covered by clothes usually… I read THE COLOR…last summer…good book. I just finished a great book–THE BRASS RING–I can highly rec. it. 🙂 🙂 Well, the Indy group comes tonight late-it will be “NANA’ and painting family room-reading what they like…enjoy your trip. Don’t miss D. Maccomber???? TWENTY WISHES…I finally got it after being on a list forever at the library…well worth reading…THE BLOSSOM STREET series
    Girls-don’t forget to check my BLOG-I am having problems getting it going.

  6. Susan Manning on July 4, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    July 4 Diane it was wonderful meeting you & John yesterday at Topsail Beach….You are a very special person & my favorite author …I read your comments about being tender hearted & I am exactly the same way . I cry over things some people never even think of …I will cry over animals quicker than anything …They are in my prayers everyday & night .I loved the video of Christian & his reunion with his human parents…I cried bundles !!!! I just wish there were more tender hearted people in this world…It is a blessing .
    Thanks again for all your wonderful books & the chance to meet you in person .
    Susan Manning

  7. Diane Chamberlain on July 4, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Susan, it was a treat meeting you yesterday, too! Thanks for coming to the signing. I hope to have pictures up on the blog soon.
    Brenda, I hope your book club enjoys Before the Storm!

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