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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Guest Post: Susan Kaye Quinn: Write First, Then Outline

It's a Virtual Launch Party for Susan Kaye Quinn's  Open Minds!!!

Write First, Then Outline - Wait, That's Backwards?
by Susan Kaye Quinn

Drafting my paranormal/SF teen novel Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) was hardly a straight-line process. When I finished (the second time), I took a break from the story and worked on other projects. I had a nagging sense that the story in Open Minds wasn’t quite right. It had all the elements of right, but it wasn’t really there yet.

So I embarked on a self-directed study of the craft of storytelling. I read bestselling novels, studying them and analyzing their structure (see my analysis of Hunger Games). I started reading books on screenwriting (see my review of Robert McKee’s Story), discovering that screenwriters were like novelists without all the words. They had worked out the art of storytelling, beat by beat and had no problem with owning the ancient formulas for telling a story. One of my greatest insights on how, in the right hands, storytelling formulas could produce a masterpiece that was anything but formulaic came when I saw the movie How to Train Your Dragon. It was based on a book that was almost completely unrelated to the movie. In other words, the screenwriters had taken a character or two, the setting, and completely rewritten the story. It was a middle grade animated kids movie about dragons and I cried repeatedly, cheered, and saw it about 5 times. 

I'm not even a fan of dragons (*ducks from fruit thrown by dragon lovers*).

But that movie was brilliant! And armed with Snyder's Beat Sheet and McKee's insights into moving an audience, I could finally see why. It wasn't a lightbulb going on, it was an entire outdoor stadium lightbank blasting my mind.

So I outlined what I had of Open Minds, realized it was a hot mess, recrafted a new outline and got busy with writing. There were still several drafts ahead of me, but finally I had the writerly tools I needed to carve out the story that Kira really deserved.

What had come before was just the beginning. I soon realized that not only had I forgotten to write the second half of the novel the first time around, but there was, in fact, a whole trilogy to this story. I am now writing Closed Hearts (Book Two of the Mindjack Trilogy)—after a flurry of hyper plotting—and will be writing The Third Book Which Shall Remain Nameless after that.
And this time, I already know how it ends. :)


When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep.
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy) by Susan Kaye Quinn is available for $2.99 in e-book (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords) and $9.99 in print (Amazon, Createspace).

The Story of Open Minds (linked posts)



Susan Kaye Quinn is giving away an Open Books/Open Minds t-shirt, mug, and some fun wristbands to celebrate the Virtual Launch Party of Open Minds (Book One of the Mindjack Trilogy)! (Check out the prizes here.)

Three ways to enter (you can have multiple entries):

1)      Leave a comment here or at the Virtual Launch Party post

2)      Tweet (with tag #keepingOPENMINDS)

Example: When everyone reads minds, a secret is a dangerous thing to keep. #keepingOPENMINDS @susankayequinn #SF #YA avail NOW

Example: Celebrate the launch of OPEN MINDS by @susankayequinn #keepingOPENMINDS #SciFi #paranormal #YA avail NOW

3)     Facebook (tag @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn)

Example: Celebrate the launch of paranormal/SF novel OPEN MINDS by @AuthorSusanKayeQuinn for a chance to win Open Books/Open Minds prizes!



  1. Thanks for letting me take over your blog with a guest post!! And thanks for all your support of the Virtual Party! :)

  2. Whaaaat? Not a dragon lover? Pish posh. I shall forgive you since you have an awesome novel, Susan :-)

  3. Okay, I'm with Angela here,because I love a good movie that has a fierce dragon in it. How to Train Your Dragon is one of my favorites too, so you get points back for that.

    And do think a writer can learn a lot by studying the work of authors before them and also movies and TV shows. Great post.

  4. Thanks, Susan, I have bookmarked a bunch of pages here!

  5. Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet is SO helpful for keeping a story on track.

    BTW, I'm one of the people throwing rotten fruit. How can you not like dragons?!

  6. "How to Train Your Dragon" has to be one of the most finely crafted stories in family film history. It inspired me too. I've got the poster hanging over my writing desk.

  7. You've been Memed, Tricia. Come and get your questions: