Writing without an outline is like walking a tightrope without a net. Dangerous! I should know better.
But the truth is, I nearly always write without an outline. It’s more exciting that way. When I start a story, I think I know where I’m going. I often end up someplace else entirely. (Kids, don’t try writing without an outline in English class; it makes the teacher crazy.)
On New Year’s Eve, I set out to compare authors John Grisham and Michael Connelly. Turns out the two men and their careers are as similar as Coke and Pepsi. But when you open the covers of their books, there’s a definite contrast, like salt and pepper. If you’d like to read Part 1 of this extended post first, click here.
Grisham and Connelly are writers of the same generation, both productive enough to wear out a reader, but good enough to keep customers coming back for more.
Grisham was born in 1955 and Connelly in 1956. With that one-year head start, Grisham holds a slim lead over Connelly. Score in books published: Grisham, 28; Connelly, 27, if I’ve counted correctly. Can’t get much closer than that.
They’ve both had many books on the bestseller lists. Grisham’s “The Firm” was probably the No. 1 bestselling novel of 1991. Connelly has had two books on the bestseller lists during the same year. And he’s turned that trick more than once.
I suspect Grisham holds a lead in career earnings, but who cares? Eight of Grisham’s bestsellers have become successful films, starting with “The Firm” and the “Pelican Brief” in the early 1990s.
Two Connelly novels are films, “Blood Work” in 2002; and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” published in 2005, movie version in 2011. In addition to his books and movies, Connelly has produced a limited-edition jazz music CD, and a limited-edition movie DVD.
The two authors came to writing by different routes, and that has made all the difference in their points of view.
Grisham, who has written extensively about lawyers and judges in the South, received a law degree from Ole Miss and practiced law for a decade in Mississippi before publishing “A Time To Kill” in 1988.
Connelly majored in journalism and paid his dues covering the police beat for two newspapers in Florida, and raised his profile with three more years on the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times.
(Full disclosure, I majored in journalism too, and worked for a number of newspapers. But that’s all I have in common with Connelly. Maybe I should have studied law, like Grisham.)
After his long apprenticeship as a reporter on the police beat, Connelly published his first book, “The Black Echo” in 1992.
So here’s the deal: With his newspaper and police beat background, Connelly writes about law mainly from the perspective of a police homicide detective.
With his background as an attorney, Grisham writes from the perspective of lawyers, and sometimes judges.
Now, once again, the hour is getting late. This wayward essay, written without benefit of an outline, is going to spill over into Part 3, tomorrow. I don’t know details about Grisham’s and Connelly’s writing habits. I have a feeling they probably use outlines.
In my own defense, Stephen King is one successful author who prefers to write without an outline, as disclosed in his memoir, “On Writing.” For more thoughts about writing, click here.
See you tomorrow. — John Hayden
What do you think about Grisham and Connelly, and their books? If you don’t see a comments box directly below, look for and click on the tiny “Leave A Comment” line at bottom right.
I like Grishom, but this post makes me think I’d like Connolley better, and I don’t think I’ve read any of his works
I think you’ll enjoy Connelly. More specifics on his point of view in the next installment.
I’ve read every book I could get my hands on for each of these authors. Grisham had me hooked with A Time to Kill followed up by the Pelican Brief. Michael Connelly set that same hook with the Lincoln Lawyer. Rogue Lawyer was the first book of either that I set aside only partially read. If a book hasn’t caught my imagination by the time I’m 1/3 done, I consider it a waste of my time and, at my age, I don’t have the time to waste:)
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I’m with you on no time to waste and setting aside books that don’t click. In fact I think you’ve just inspired a new post about a few books by the author Matthew Quick.