Obsessed With Outlines

Manuscript News

I know, I know. I’m supposed to be taking a break from Border Towns in order to be fresh and ready for the meat of revisions. But, what can I say? I feel a little nervous about the tight timeline I put myself on this year and I’m afraid if I lollygag in my preparations for draft two then I won’t get it done in time.

So, suffice it to say, I’m not drafting. I’m really not. But, I’m doing everything I can to stay engaged with my story. I know this means that by the end of September I’ll probably feel ready to take this novel behind the shed and shoot it, but I’ll cross that event horizon if it ever comes.

What exactly am I doing? Well, read on…


The Weekly Struggle

Let’s talk outlining.

Nine months ago, I wasn’t sure where I fell on the plotting/pantsing spectrum. I even wrote a blog post ruminating on the subject. Now, one completed first draft later, I think it’s fairly safe to say that I fully identify as a plotter, and that is largely thanks to how much I truly enjoy the outlining phase.

I’m a freak, I know.

I had tremendous success with my pre-first draft outlines (yes, I said outlines with an s), though it didn’t always feel like success. The first outline came out to a very thin, rather pathetic sixty scenes. So, I started a new one. A second draft… of the outline. Sadly, outline #2 never actually got completed because I simply ran out of Preptober time. I was committed to starting NaNo with everyone else, and so when November 1st hit, I just got started. Outline #2 was on pace to be 85 scenes.

So, confession. One of the things I chafe at when reading discourse regarding pantsing vs. plotting, is the idea that plotting is too rigid and leaves no room for creative discovery. (For the record, I know that people who say this are usually only referring to themselves, but the anxiety monster in me internalizes it anyway.) But, for me, that was absolutely not the case.

I try to think of writing as a road trip of sorts, where the goal is to get from Point A to Point B. The outline is the map. It might show you the most efficient, direct route to complete your journey, but that is just one option among dozens of others. If you get detoured by construction (a character going rogue), or if you find an interesting landmark you want to visit that wasn’t on your path (a sudden plot idea you want to include), you still have you map to guide you back to the highway when you’re through.

For me, the outline was instrumental in unblocking me at one particular point during my first draft. In essence, late in the second act, my main character jumped the gun on a plot I had slated for the second and third books in the series. At first I just went with it, as I had in the past when things like this happened. However, afterwards I encountered some serious blockage. My characters were no longer cooperating, largely because they had to deal with this major bombshell that had just been dropped on them, while I was trying to usher along the main story plot.

After a great deal of fussing around, I went back to my outline and, with it, I was able to pin point the exact scene where I went wrong. Though I was initially hesitant to change anything, I eventually made the tough decision to strip out 2500 words and start fresh from the trouble spot.

It worked. I no longer felt blocked and was able to move along with my story until I eventually finished two weeks ago.

Which leads me back to this week’s activities.

I’ve been kind of at a loss as to how to tackle revision. I’ve never made it to a second draft before, and I don’t know what my process is or what will work. I’ve known for a while I want to do a fresh second draft, without the first draft sitting in front of my face to directly reference, but I also don’t want to go into it completely from memory either. While mulling it over on Twitter several weeks ago, I realized I could utilize my obsession with outlines once again. If I write up an outline based on the first draft, I can then do a second draft outline based on that, without getting caught up in the minutiae of the prose itself.

And that’s what I’m doing this week. I’m calling it my post-mortem outline. It’s given me an impetus to get through the necessary, if cringe inducing, task of re-reading the first draft, as well as help me form new ideas for what I want out of draft two. So while it might not be for everyone, it’s absolutely already been worth it for me.

Honestly, I can’t wait to get started on the second draft outline.

I know, I’m weird. But that’s okay.

weird


I know I said last week that this week’s post was going to be about Writing For Yourself, but I’M JUST SO PASSIONATE ABOUT OUTLINING YOU GUYS. Next week I’ll be back with a post previewing my very first writing conference. Actually, it’ll probably just be 800 words about how nervous I am. Until then, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few!

Kerry Share

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