I worry about putting too much time into working out the detailed outline. The general Hero’s Journey writes itself. But. Expanding into chapters and scenes has caused me a lot of hand-wringing.

In Book I, the dark place is the result of an abduction. There’s a decision that puts the Mage in harm’s way. But. The Outlanders do the capturing. And the imprisoning. The story more-or-less writes itself.

In Book II, the dark place is a choice. The Mage has elevated the pursuit of power by also seeking justice. Not quite to the depth and degree as the Red Knight, but there’s some progress. What’s important is the antagonist’s choices drive the mage, and — except for a few entanglements left over from book I — the story almost writes itself.


I’m spending a lot of time wrestling with Book III’s outline. And having to explore all of the nuances along that spectrum of involutary-voluntary and compelled-dissuaded.

I know choices for the Mage and the Red Knight need to be front and center. But in the context of the story, they’re also hasty choices, made in the face of profound uncertainty and a lot of disagreement.

The earlier version of the outline had a too-heroic ending. While a Hero’s Journey makes the Hero master of both worlds, the Hero is only reconciled to both, not properly successful in both. In the Hero's little spaces, they have mastery. Elsewhere, they're still someone’s enemy.

After struggling for over a week, I remembered Book II and Book III stories had originally been designed (in spring of 2017) with a vague “several years later.” The hiatus no longer made any sense, given the details at the end of Book I, so I dropped it. The same is true, here. This new book needs to rest more squarely on some of the outcomes from Book II.

While the Red Knight will venture forth, the Mage moves reluctantly. The reasons given in the outline for the Mage departing are too few. The reasons for returning are even fewer. As with everything else, the Mage’s journey from power to justice is reluctant, voluntary, and requires persuasion.

The outline has some “McGuffin” problems. The mage must gain and lose many things. These are emblematic of exchanges of one form of power for another. But the outline didn’t properly flag the losses.

I worry about the paralysis of analysis. There’s a point where more design isn’t going to lead to a better product, it’s simply bloat. I also have to avoid leaping in early and writing away without a clear-enough plan. (This may sound like the Red Knight and the Mage having one of their long, slow arguments about taking action.)

The problem is looking at my previous outline as if it’s somehow important. I wrote it in 2017, so it’s from at least 20 months ago. I’ve spent over a week making small tweaks when — I think — I should delete the while damn thing and simply start fresh.