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Monday, April 9, 2012

Guest Post: Aaron Karo on his "Not-So-Rough Outline"

Today Aaron Karo is stopping at Wastepaper Prose for the first stop of his Lexapros & Cons blog tour, and he'll be spilling the beans about how his first novel got written! Check out the schedule below to follow along with the tour.

Release Date: April 10, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pre-order: Amazon / IndieBound / Barnes & Noble

 I wrote the first draft of Lexapros and Cons quickly – in just about a month. However, that does not take into account all the time I spent planning out the story before I even wrote a single word. In fact, the outline for the book took several months and in some ways was the hardest part of the process.
            Way back before I was an author or comedian or screenwriter, I worked on Wall Street. Finance taught me many useless things, but one thing I did get good at was using Excel. As uncreative as it may sound, I actually outlined Lexapros and Cons using a spreadsheet.
            The first thing I did was calculate the average word count for the handful of chapters I wrote for my proposal. Then I extrapolated that out to figure out how many chapters of that length I’d need to hit my target length for the book. I ended up with a nice even total of sixty chapters.
            Then, I simply labeled 60 rows in Excel, going down the page from 1 to 60. And then I proceeded to fill in each row with a one-sentence description of what transpired in that chapter. However, I didn’t fill out the chapters chronologically.
            Lexapros is my fourth book but my first novel. The only fiction writing I had done before was sitcom pilots and screenplays. So the screenplay structure is pretty much what I used to outline the novel. About fifteen minutes into a movie is the first “plot point,” which is basically what sets the rest of the story in motion. In my book, that’s about chapter 10, which is when Chuck meets his love interest Amy. The next important moment in a movie is the midpoint, which, as it sounds, takes place halfway through and changes the course of the narrative. So in Chapter 30 of Lexapros, I knew something big would have to go down between Chuck and Amy. Then comes the second plot point, which is about three quarters through the movie, and is when the main character realizes what he needs to do to accomplish his goals. This was about Chapter 51 for me. And I always knew what the last scene of the novel would be, which was obviously Chapter 60.
            So now that I knew what would happen in the four most important chapters, all I had to do next was fill in the blanks. I wrote a sentence for each chapter in between, making sure that the characters were properly developed and the chronology made sense (I also had a separate column running alongside my outline with the months of the year so I could keep track of my timing.)
            When I was done, I could look at my entire novel on one page of my computer screen. All I had to do was write the text itself. But since I knew what preceded each chapter and what followed, I only had to worry about the dialogue and less about the structure. That allowed me to cruise through and bang out at least two chapters a day, crossing out columns in my spreadsheet as I went. A month later, Lexapros and Cons was done. My Wall Street career had finally come in handy.

Follow the tour...

Monday, April 9 - Wastepaper Prose
Tuesday, April 10 - Abby the Librarian
Wednesday, April 11 - YA Librarian Tales
Thursday, April 12 - Hilary Wagner
Friday, April 13 - YA Bibliophile
Saturday, April 14 - Stacked
Monday, April 16 - Letters Inside Out
Tuesday, April 17 - Lady Reader's Bookstuff
Wednesday, April 18 - Mermaid Vision Books
Thursday, April 19 - Book Sake
Friday, April 20 - Chick Loves Lit

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