I’ve been working on the outline of The Next Novel. I had promised this next draft to my L.A. editor (Dan) today. Yesterday I sent him an email: no way! My agent had asked, back in November, if she could expect it at the end of January, and I had, “Oh, yes.” At that time January was a distant world.

It surprises me what a time-consuming process this is. The outline is 40 pages, but it’s double spaced, with lots of chunks in “invisible type” which I use to fade out scenes I’m in doubt of. (Putting them in outline purgatory.) I had imagined that I could read it through in one day, and then revise it the day later. The reading part is accurate, but the revising part is not. I seem to get through only about four or five pages a day.

The process is not so different from writing. With each line I’m asking: Would she really do that? How does she feel? What is their relationship? Can I cut this scene? Combine these? How can I make this scene more dramatic? And (the loathsome stickler): What are the facts?

A “What are the facts?” question sends me off into Research Land—and this can, and does, take hours. (See my post on my research blog: here.)

I’ve not worked out an outline so carefully before, and it remains to be seen if it’s a worthwhile thing to do. Somehow I think so. I know that the novel that will eventually (miraculously) see the light of day will be quite different—writing is a process of discovery—but it’s possible that I may be short-cutting that process by a few years of drafts by imagining it through in this way, over and over and over.

Today, Sunday chores: answer reader emails, attend to bills and filing, prepare for houseguests. But first, I’ll just have a peek at the next page of the outline.