Loree Lough

At last count, best-selling author Loree Lough had 74 books, 63 short stories, and over 2,500 articles in print. Dubbed “the writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives”, she has earned dozens of “Readers’ Choice” and industry awards. Her most recent release, Be Still…and Let Your Nail Polish Dry! will soon be joined by Prevailing Love, Tales of the Heart, and Beautiful Bandit (#1 in her “Lone Star Legends” series from Whitaker), and One Forsaken Man (#1 in her “First Responders” series from Abingdon). Loree and her husband split their time between a little house in the Baltimore suburbs and a really little cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where they cater to a formerly-abused Pointer whose numerous vet visits inspired the nickname ‘Cash’. She loves to hear from her readers, so feel free to write her at loree [at] loreelough [dot]com. Visit her blog (www.theloughdown.blogspot.com) and web site (http://www.loreelough.com).

To Outline Or Not?

So the Christmas decorations are stored away and the mini Valentine’s Day flag is flying on my front porch, and I’m still writing 2009 on my checks. Sheesh. My biggest complaint this time of year is directed at Mother Nature: Choose a season and stick with it, ya loony ol’ bat, cuz this see-sawing between winter and spring is driving me (and my crocuses) nuts!

In all fairness to Ma Nature, she’s been around awhile. Maybe menopause has set in, and the crazy mood swings are hot flash–related? If that’s the case, what she needs is a plan. A list of sorts she can stick to, regardless of her temperament at any given moment. An outline even, that’ll help her focus on what she should do instead of what she feels like doing . . .

To Outline or Not?

I received this question in an e-mail, but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it from students and workshop attendants, I could easily treat my family to dinner at McDonald’s:

I just finished my second book and have started a third (though none have sold yet). I had to totally rewrite the first book . . . twice! Some of my published author friends say it’s because I don’t use an outline. I don’t want to go through all those massive rewrites again, but I’m afraid a formal outline will inhibit my creativity. Besides, I’ve heard that successful authors like Nora Roberts don’t outline, so why should I?

Bear with me while I take a big, deep drink of patience.

Okay. I’m the first to admit that every writer works differently. And that there’s no “write: or wrong way to get from “Once upon a time” to “The End.” So I tell them how things work for me and invite them to apply the information—in full or in part—to the way they do things.

People often say I’m a hard worker; “‘Loree’ and ‘lazy’ don’t belong in the same sentence,” they tell me. Maybe that’s because, even when they stop by unannounced, my house is spic n span, the laundry and dishes are done, the spice racks and pantry are alphabetized, and the clothes in my closet hang in not only color order but also by sleeve and hem length.

Now, before you sharpen the blade on your guillotine, allow me to make a confession: I’m the laziest person I know. Those “neat house” things? They’re the direct result of—you guessed it—outlining.

I make an outline before leaving for the grocery store; another for annual, monthly, daily goals. Some might call them to-do lists (to which I say pah tah toe), but outlines are what keep me organized. And being organized is what allows me to park my lazy butt in my big overstuffed chair at the end of the day and do, well, whatever my lazy butt wants to do!

Outlines are a requirement for me “on the job.” Without an outline, I’m lost and confused, which makes me waste time. And few things I dislike more than wasting time. (Except maybe not enough of it, but that’s another column.)

So I outlined every blessed one of the more than 2,500 articles and sixty-two short stories I’ve had published. I outline lesson

plans for the (writing) classes I teach at the local college and online. Speeches on writing related topics are (you guessed it!) outlined. Each of my published romances was written after I’d completed (a yup!) an outline.

Far from inhibiting creativity, outlines free me to tell believable stories without fear of sagging middles, uncharacteristic dialogue, confusing plot points . . . in short, anything that might force me into time consuming rewrites.

As for the Nora Roberts comment?

I, too, have heard that she doesn’t outline. But even writers who don’t create formal outlines, outline. But they’re the natural born storytellers we all aspire to become; they know, instinctively, what belongs in a novel . . . and what does not. Like fine chefs, they know exactly when to add a pinch of tension, a dash of conflict, when to turn up the heat, when to let a story simmer. Maybe “years of experience” is their secret ingredient. Perhaps natural talent is their trademark “spice.” Possibly, delectable stories are the result of seasoning and a God given gift. But make no mistake: They are outlining. They’re just doing it in their heads (lucky stiffs!).

As for me, despite the fact that I’ve earned dozens of industry and readers’ choice awards for the seventy-some books in print, I’m going to keep right on outlining until there are hundreds of Loree Lough titles on the shelves. For me, outlining works.

Besides, let’s face it: There’s only one Nora Roberts.

Prevailing Love
Tales of The Heart