Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

The Miracle of Outlining: Novel #2 Takes Shape


Marisol Rivera, the protagonist of my first feminist heist novel

As many of you know, I have a two-book deal with Kensington Publishing. I sold the series based on the manuscript for a feminist heist novel with a Latina Robin Hood and her crew of sex workers. A few weeks ago, I turned in the outline for my second book in the series, another feminist heist novel that stars Tyesha, the secondary protagonist of the first book.

It took me nearly six years to get an agent from the time I started working on the first book. And another year after that to get a publisher. I revised the first book at least seven times. So much time in revision was spent altering the structure of the book, changing the plot, and fine-tuning the protagonist’s journey.


Tyesha, the protagonist of my second feminist heist novel

But when you have a two-book deal, you need to crank out two books within the space of a year. So you don’t have time to wander around in one draft and make a bunch of messes and later come clean them up. At least I don’t have time for that. I’m a working artist mom, and I have the nerve to be working on a non-fiction book, as well. Yet, the beauty of the two-book deal is that you know exactly whom you need to please with the second book–the acquiring editor. With my first book, I worked with several workshop teachers, three freelance editors, and had half a dozen beta readers (non-professionals who gave me feedback). Each had a different aesthetic, a different set of political views. They often disagreed. But I sent this outline to my editor, and she sent me feedback about what’s not working before I’ve even written it. This is awesome. She’s indicated which scenes need to be deleted before I waste any time writing them. She’s identifying plot problems before I write myself into a mess. It’s like writing with GPS, except without the annoying voice. And of course, like with GPS, there are times you need to reroute. A traffic jam or just a scenic route you’d rather follow. But I feel particularly grateful to have such a clear trajectory. Some writers feel painfully constricted by an outline, their creativity stifled. I feel confident. I’ve always used them for the novels I’ve worked on, but this is the first time I’ve had an outline critiqued by someone else, particularly by the very person who will be approving the book.

Thanks so much to Mercedes Fernandez of Kensington’s Dafina. Equal thanks to Jenni Ferrari-Adler, my amazing agent. Thanks also to Scrivener, the writing program that helped me organize the actual files. In the future, I aspire to be able to write more than one novel a year. For now, however, I’m just grateful to be on track in my writing. And outlining.

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This entry was posted on April 13, 2015 by in Uncategorized.

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Aya wins first place Independent Publisher Awards for UPTOWN THIEF, THE BOSS, THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS

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