By Daniel Schwabauer
If steampunk is a blend of Victorian culture and slightly advanced technologies, what would happen if the culture were pushed farther back, and the technologies shoved farther forward?
Outlines aren’t the only way to bring shape to a story. A bad outline will drive you compulsively in the wrong direction. Instead of giving advice, it will give commands. It will tell you to write what it summarizes, regardless of how the story has changed in your mind during the telling. “I am the story,” a bad outline will say. And if you listen to it, your story will be bad too.
Writing is work. I know this sounds obvious to anyone who has written. But non-writers sometimes react to this idea with shades of disbelief. “How hard can it be? It’s just words. You should try teaching/pouring concrete/waiting tables!” But writers know.
I had re-written the novel, then titled Baht, in 2012, as 70,000+ words of first-person narrative. Only in writing the second-to-last chapter did I realize the book wasn’t working. Though it had a lot going for it (in my opinion, anyway), it still lacked something. It lacked oomph. Drive. A sense of compulsion. I wasn’t being pulled along by the story; I was driving the story ahead of me with a cattle-prod.