The confession behind this blog: Read here.
This week, I had a major break-through: I DON'T NEED TO WRITE AN OUTLINE BEFORE I WRITE THE BOOK.
Yes. That's right. The pre-writing tool we've been told must be done before we write anything? It has now become a post-writing tool.
And I thank my years of teaching college English courses.
What I Used to Do
This was a majorly mind-blowingly development.
I had always done (or rather, NOT done and felt guilty about not doing it) proper outlines and character interviews pre-Draft 1. I thought pre-writing was for anal idiots, and I was not an idiot.
I wanted to jump into the story. Feet first, of course. (Because I was not an idiot.)
This is not to say I write by the seat of my pants. I always need a plan, a Pinterest Board, a Polyvore collage.
I just don't want a 100-pages of outlines and character notes. Or, as I call it. The Book Before the Book.
And yes, I would write an outline of sorts. I would outline until I was tired of outlining and began writing Chapter One.
It sort of was like playing a game. I don't want to listen to the rules. I want to just play and make mistakes as I go and learn from those mistakes.
This worked. I'd get a book done. Actually, I got three books done in this manner. Two for a publisher. One that's The Amateur Sleuth I Shall One Day Rule Over (Just Not Now).
But I felt the stories could have been more. Deeper. Heartier. More of what I envisioned.
And so I reviewed what I was doing and made changes.
What I Changed and Do Now
So this is where I talk about how teaching college English made me understand something about fiction outlines.
I would continually tell my students to use the guidelines for each assignment as a checklist AFTER they had written their papers. This was the time to be very cognizant of structure and rules. And if they proofread against the guidelines/checklist, they would turn in an above-average product.
This made me look in the figurative mirror and say, "Okay, Miss Know It All. Practice what you preach."
And so I did.
Change #1: I began to write my Draft 1 more quickly, with fewer revisions as I wrote. I made peace with the fact that I was writing down the framework of the story and it wasn't actually the story yet.
Change #2: I let the story sit while I wrote Draft #1 of another story. (One caveat: Make it a story from the same world. For instance, I wrote His Favorite Inconvenience after His Favorite Regret. It was The Second Story that was still in The First Story's world. And trust me, I have also written another series as The Second Story. Ow. It made my brain hurt trying to remember both worlds.)
Change #3: A few weeks later, I would come back to Draft #1 of The First Story. I put it into Scrivener. I printed out chapters. I collated each chapter. I wrote down the story arc based on what I had written.
Change #4: I sat down and answered questions about the story.
Change #5: I sat down and answered questions about my characters.
Change #6: I created a checklist for the story based on those answers.
Change #7: I approached the revision of The First Story with this checklist.
Change #8: I inserted these revisions, and Draft 2 became The Story That Was Outlined After Draft 1.
*The Only Thing I Didn't Change: I still made a rudimentary outline that followed The Hero's Journey. The outline is approximately one to two pages long.
|I took a writing pause to support local authors at a signing at the library in Eliot, Maine.|
What I Think About Those Changes
My storytelling has gained so much from this new process. Is this new process saving me time?
Honestly, no. I actually feel overwhelmed by this process, as I do with any kind of revision I do. It's part of the process known as Geez Louise, Can't You Just Be Perfect After The First Draft, You Stupid Story?
|Taking a walk and forgetting about the revision pain.|
|Shuffling through leaves helps the revision pain. A lot a lot a lot.|
And there you have it. I interviewed my story after Draft #1. I created a better outline (one where the motivations were made clear and the stakes were made ORGANICALLY higher). And it hasn't sped up my revision process.
But it has made it better.
Does anyone else have a wonky revision plan to share? We won't judge.
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