The Faith McKenzie Story by Erin Cawood: To Outline or Not to Outline? That is the Question
For anyone in a relationship, the words ‘we need to talk’ can only mean one thing. In the last twenty-two years, the McKenzies have been through it, survived it, learned by it, and grown stronger from it, because life didn’t stop for breath when they needed it. Amongst the tears and the tragedies, the hopes and happiness, they’ve built something amazing: a happy family, a luxury lifestyle and a booming empire. Don’t they deserve to have it all?
But for the perfect wife, those four sinister words mean something entirely different. They’re a summons into a private world where what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.
Faith has no doubt in Calvin’s undying love for her. It’s what kept her sane in the darkest hours. If only she could figure out what it is she does wrong… because it’s rapidly becoming apparent their tainted love is running out of time.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
1 in 4 woman will be affected by domestic abuse. 50% of the royalties from sales of this series will be donated to charities supporting those affected by abusive relationships.
Promise me you won’t tell a soul what you are about to read? Unless something happens to me, no one needs to know.
My babies, Georgia and Caleb, only need to know what I have told them. I am unhappy. I have been unhappy for a long time. And therefore, I have gone away to heal my heart, my mind, and my spirit. They’ll understand, for me, their younger sisters are part of the healing process, and this is why I have taken the girls with me. I have promised to return, and I will. Somehow I’ll find another way into Georgia and Caleb’s lives. But… I’ll never go back.
I tell myself every day I should be thankful for what I have. Despite my sad situation I have you, my amazing younger brother. You’ve flourished into an all-state star quarterback and earned a scholarship to one of the best medical schools in the country. I have three wonderful daughters who still see fairy tales and dreams, and know how to reach for the sky. The eldest has high grades and a warm heart for children in need. She’s taken herself down the path to follow Daddy into the family profession. The younger ones are a delight. Barely walking, already they have flair for drama, song, and dance. I see stars in their eyes and fame on their horizons.
And my son is… well, he’s frustrating. He can whip a top grade out of the bag without studying. But his priorities lay elsewhere for so many years. Then, one day he came home with college applications, a volunteering job in the community, and a path he’d chosen on his own. I’m not quite sure when it happened, but it was some divine intervention for which I’ll be forever indebted.
We own a five bedroom house in the Hamptons, with vast gardens where I spend my days tending to roses and uprooting weeds. If I’m not in my gardens, I partake in coffee mornings, which entail little coffee and lots of shopping. I no longer try anything on in the store; I donate it to charity if it doesn’t fit. I have lunch at the tennis club where I no longer play tennis; an injury took me out of the game some years ago.
My husband and I have a regular sitter and spend many evenings at the social clubs of which we’re members. We dine on lavish food, drink the finest wines, and dance past the stroke of midnight. I drive a swift little roadster, top down, through summer, and a tough terrain SUV in the winter. I have a lot to be thankful for… including twenty-two years of marriage.
Oh, how I wish I could tell you this was some mid-life crisis! That with my oldest children flying the nest, I felt my life half-empty. I’m sure if you ask Calvin, it’s how he’ll explain our sudden departure from his life. But it’s quite the opposite, in fact.
I know it’s been years since we last spoke, and how angry you were when you left. But there are things I need you to know, little brother, and these things I kept hidden from you all.
To Outline or Not to Outline? That is the Question
by Erin Cawood
The practice of Outlining in creative writing strikes me as a contradiction. You’re putting formality and structure around a process which should be free and open to flow at will. You’re making it enclosing it, purposefully making it rigid.
But then I look back over the four years it took to write my first novel. I didn’t outline it. I just let my characters run around all higgledy-piggledy for at least a gazillion words until they’d decided what they wanted to do. Then there was a lot of restructuring and it became a novel. It was still twice the size of a normal contemporary romance novel that became two, then three books in a series that has the potential to infinitely grow.
And then… I look at National Novel Writing Month 2009 and the strictest outlining I have created before starting a new project. I mean serious army sergeant strict. And I remember how much Ireally hated writing that novel. Sure I wrote 50K in 23 days. But was it fun? Nu-huh! And the reason I write first and foremost is because I get a great deal of pleasure from it.
So let’s talk about something much more enjoyable; my published debut Tainted Love. It’s actually the sixth novel I’ve written and it took only two weeks to write. The difference between Tainted Love and the four year aimless marathon is that I had a good idea of where my character was going. Unknowingly, Faith is caught in progressively abusive marriage and over the course of twenty plus years the relationship succumbs to her husband’s rage and unpredictable violence. Faith expresses her deepest and most personal thoughts in letters she sends to her brother. I knew when I set out with a rough outlinethe couple had two children, that Calvin’s abuse was slow and would progress from verbal to physical to sexual and eventually near fatal and Faith would have to leave him. I knew she’d spend years trying to evade him until she finally rebuilt her sense of self worth to face him again.
I used to see outlining as an unnecessary evil, and it never really helped me at all. I remember feeling restricted and claustrophobic because I had a plan, a road map and I had to stick to it. But the wonderful thing about plans is they change. Well, why shouldn’t they? It’s part of the creative process. Your characters grow and develop over the course of their journey. They might develop faster or slower than you expected them to, or given a certain situation they might not act the way you expected them to. They might decide they want more than two children, or the evil one might actually have a reason for acting the way they do after all, or they might just want to break your heart.
In my opinion, one of the best things about being an author is there are no right or wrong answers. The debate about outlining will remain forevermore but the way I see it, outlining is like taking a fly-drive holiday using a Sat-Nav. It knows which rental office you’re picking the car up from and it knows where you’re supposed to be dropping it off, and it knows all the scheduled stops you want to make along the way. But who cares if you missed the last turning and got lost? Go and explore! Find out something new and exciting about your characters. Throw them into situations they might not have ended up in if you’d stuck to the itinerary! One of the most commented on plot twists in Tainted Love is ‘I didn’t expect Calvin… (To give you the rest would be to spoil it)’ and my response is ‘No, neither did I’.