Book 2 Diaries: #2 – Outlining

Outline word count: 5038 words

Working title: Rhymes with Wisteria

 

Dear readers,

University and a new job have taken over my life over the past few weeks, so I’ve had to put my project to the side for a while. In saying that, I haven’t shelved it completely; I’ve been slowly working away at a chapter by chapter outline, so that once I do get the time, I’ll be able to write the first draft with minimal road blocks.

Plotting vs Pantsing

For my whole writing life, I have thought of myself as a pantser. I’d always written without any sort of road map, simply uncovering the story as I wrote it. I’d never successfully created an outline from start to finish, and I didn’t believe it was something I could do. For this project, however, I decided that I wanted to try my hand at outlining. The prospect of having a road map to refer to whenever I get lost was just too tempting.

My New Outlining Process

Outlining has always been extremely difficult for me, which is the reason I’ve never done it before. I realise now that I just hadn’t discovered my process yet. A fellow blogger (Bryan Fagan from acrackinthepavement.com) suggested I try outlining chapter by chapter, simply writing brief summaries for each. This method seemed like the perfect balance between creative freedom and structure. I got to work straight away.

Part 1 – Chapter Outline

I started by going through some of my favourite books and writing chapter summaries for each of their first chapters. Once I’d gotten the hang of summarising, I created a document called Chapter Outline.

Chapter 1 (0 – 2000 words)

Under each heading, I write a summary of all the events of that chapter, as well as goals and notes to myself. I use 2000 words as a guide for chapter length, but that’s not something I’ll force myself to stick to when it comes to writing the draft.

Part 2 – Notes and Scenes

I also use a second document called Notes and Scenes. This document is a complete mess where I allow myself to be a pantser and just write all the scenes that come into my mind, all the random bits of dialogue, descriptions, etc. In this document, I don’t restrain myself with structure. It’s basically a more readable version of the notes I scribble into my journal in complete darkness at 3 in the morning.

These are the scenes and notes that make the story click in my mind. The  Notes and Scenes document lets me uncover the story without having to write the whole thing.

I’ve found that these two methods together allow me all the creative freedom of pantsing, while also giving me the ability to see my story as a whole, and therefore improve its plot and structure before writing the first draft. There have been so many little plot holes that I’ve been able to identify and fix in minutes, saving me what would be a complete rewrite if I hadn’t caught them in the outline.

Where am I up to?

I’ve now outlined around half of Rhymes with Wisteria! It’s strange to know the story beats before having the manuscript in front of me, but it’s also been extremely liberating. I think that, for me, writer’s block comes from knowing there is a problem in my work and subconsciously being afraid of what it will take to fix this problem. Outlining has removed any plot-related writer’s block because with an outline, I can catch the problems before doing all the work. Fixing the problem is as easy as deleting the bad chapter summary and reworking the direction.

I fully believe that some people can write brilliant novels without some kind of outline; I am just not one of those people, and it’s taken me a long time to realise that.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Did it take you a long time to figure out your process?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below!

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

 

 

[Header image: Wisteria flowers. Owned by Meneerke bloem. Used with permission under the creative commons license.]

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Book 2 Diaries: #1 – A New Beginning

Word count: 1322

Working title: Rhymes with Wisteria

 

Dear readers,

Yesterday, I wrote the first 1000 words of book number 2. Juice of Half a Lemon (I’ll call it JOHAL from now on) is resting on the side while I wait for the last few beta critiques to peter in.

I was hesitant to move on from my JOHAL characters, but with the help of your comments and the excitement of a new idea, I think I’m slowly getting past that hesitation.

I’ve decided to post little updates on Book 2 as I write it, to both document my writing process and help keep me motivated!

Inspiration and Ideas

I’m always interested to hear how other writers get their ideas, so I thought I would share the moment Rhymes with Wisteria happened. It was on a long cold bus ride a few weeks ago. On the bus radio, which was exorbitantly loud, there was a news story about the Wisteria flowers coming back. I misheard it as hysteria coming back, and that was when the story and characters became clear.

For me, the difference between an interesting idea and an idea that I could actually stick with is being able to hear the characters’ voices early on. When I started writing JOHAL, Adele, Edward, and Louise came naturally, as if I had met them all in person. Although I’ve had other story ideas, I haven’t had that same experience with characters until now, with Elsie, Maud, and Ólafur.

This story is taking me back to Iceland, and part of it is set in the town where I stayed during my writing residency. I think that’s part of the reason why I feel so connected to this project.

What am I doing differently this time around?

Outlining. If you’ve been here a while, you’ll know that I wrote JOHAL without an outline until around the 55 000-word mark. After eight rounds of structural editing, I realised that I didn’t want to do that again. I also discovered that the 20 000 words I wrote after I knew how the book would end were probably the best and least-messy 20 000 words in the whole messy draft.

I’m not going to write an in-depth outline—I don’t think I am capable of that—but I do want a rough road map and an idea of the ending.

I am so looking forward to writing this story and taking you along with me. Outlining is extremely difficult for me—I would appreciate any helpful hints! What are you all working on at the moment? I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for reading.

Warm regards,

Tamara

Favourite Lines: ‘Exit West’ by Mohsin Hamid

Dear readers,

Isn’t it a beautiful moment when you read the first line of a book and connect with it instantly? I recently started reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, and within the first line, it somehow found its way onto my list of favourite books.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Exit West is the kind of book I can’t help but read as a writer more than a reader, admiring each carefully constructed sentence. Today I thought I would share with you a couple of my favourite lines, starting with the opening line.

 

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in class and did not speak to her.

– page 1

 

The following evening helicopters filled the sky like birds startled after a gunshot, or by the blow of an axe on the base of their tree.

– page 32

 

One’s relationship to windows now changed in the city.

– page 68

 

…but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.

– page 94

 

If you haven’t read Exit West, I strongly urge you to go pick up a copy! What are you reading at the moment? Please let me know in the comments below–I’m always looking for suggestions.

As always, thank you for being here.

Yours,

Tamara Drazic

Favourite Lines: ‘Heart of Man’ by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Dear readers,

I recently finished reading Heart of Man by Jón Kalman Stefánsson, translated from the Icelandic by Philip Roughton, and wanted to share my three favourite lines with you.

 

“Death is neither light nor darkness; it’s just anything but life.” – page 1

“Thus it was, the mast stuck in the seabed, the sea refusing to release its prey.” – page 175

“How dangerous it is to let yourself dream of passion, of freckles and eyes, let yourself dream instead of concentrating on the struggle for life.” – page 185

 

I love reading translated fiction. There’s something about how translated sentences are constructed, how they reveal hints about a foreign culture, that gives them this inexplicable beauty. I recently realised that most of my favourite books were not originally written in English. More on this in a future post.

What are your favourite books, or lines from books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Introducing My Novel: “Juice of Half a Lemon”

The plan involves turmeric, lemons, and letters slipped under doors; a murderer’s sister and a victim’s brother; midnight phone calls, and a stagnant small town. Juice of Half a Lemon is a quirky contemporary adult novel about two people whose loneliness is intertwined.

 

Hi everyone,

Over the past year and a half of posting on this blog, I’ve gone into a lot of detail about my thoughts, my experiences, and my life as writer, but I’ve been quite tight-lipped about my actual writing. I’ve never really told you anything specific about this novel that I’ve been working on for almost exactly a year now, and I’m not completely sure why that is. I think it might be because, until I wrote the end scene only a couple of days ago, I didn’t entirely believe that I would be able to finish it. I didn’t want to introduce something to you only to scrap it a couple of weeks later. I’m finally at a place now where I can confidently say that this one’s sticking, and I’ve got no more excuses! I am currently working on the second draft, and will start looking for beta readers in the near future.

I have to start out small to avoid becoming a nervous wreck, so here are a few very vague details about the story:

Title:

Juice of Half a Lemon

A little introduction:

Adele Zimmerman hasn’t seen her brother since the night he told her he shot someone in the head. When she discovers that the victim was an identical twin, she sets out to find the leftover sibling and anonymously improve his life, as a way of settling her conscience and ridding herself of her second-hand guilt.

Juice of Half a Lemon is about identity after loss, and the suffocating nature of belonging. It’s about things that can’t be fixed, mistakes that can’t be unmade, and connections that can’t be broken.

***

The tone of the story is slightly whimsical, with a bit of dark humour. I plan on talking more about the protagonists, tone, P.O.V, inspiration, and editing process in the posts to come.

Let me know what you’re working on in the comments below; I’d love to hear about it! If you’d rather just talk to me privately, please feel free to send me an email at tamara.j.drazic@gmail.com.

I hope you found this post interesting, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you are working on.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Review: “Dreaming in Starlight” by Philip Elliott

 

Hi everyone,

Here is a short review of Philip Elliott‘s new book, “Dreaming in Starlight”. It’s so important to support new and up-and-coming writers, especially when their work is as special and as poignant as this.

 

“Dreaming in Starlight” is a book that I found myself wishing would never end, while at the same time, finding so much beauty in its brevity. The narrator, JJ, tells truths of life, love, and loss, using artful comparisons, spellbinding descriptions, and often surprising connections. The book is written in the form of letters from JJ, addressed to the people who have had an impact on his life. The unique form sets up the tone for the story, and emphasises the narrator’s loneliness, as well as his desire to belong without conforming. Philip Elliott’s prose is carefully constructed, yet exceedingly natural; unique, yet all-encompassing; and small, yet so large in scope.

I wholeheartedly recommend “Dreaming in Starlight” to any reader who also happens to be human.

For more information, and to purchase a copy of the book, head over to its Amazon page!

 

Yours sincerely,

Tamara

 

 

Writing Quote of the Day: Kafka on the Shore

Hello everyone,

I have around 10 thousand words due on Thursday, the same day as a proofreading exam, so this is going to be a very short post. I felt I had to update you though, because I think I may have a new favourite book. I’m currently reading Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore (let’s call it Kafka for short), and there are so many things about it that I just adore. I love Murakami’s stripped back style, mixed with the surrealism in his novels. It’s such an odd and fascinating combination, and I find that I’m enjoying every second of reading Kafka. As well as the intriguing style, the book is laden with really beautiful quotes that I want to write on my walls. I’m not going to because I’m renting, but if I had enough money to buy a house, that’s what I would do.

Here is one of my favourite quotes that makes an appearance quite early on in the novel:

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

– Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami

Have you read any Murakami? What do you think of his writing?

Thanks for reading,

– Tamara

New Bookshelf Additions

I’ve been buying quite a few books lately, but I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of reading outside of my prescribed novels for University. I thought I’d write a post about the books on my shelf that I finally have time to read, and the books that I’ll hopefully be reviewing as soon as I go on winter break in June!

*In the Quiet, by Eliza Henry. I met this author at the Brisbane Writer’s Festival last year, and still haven’t gotten around to reading her debut novel. Main themes are love, loss, and grieving.

*House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski. This book is a cult classic, confusing, multi P.O.V., over 700 page, insane, experimentally structured romance about an evil house. That’s what I’ve gathered so far, but it’s all very confusing.

*The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton. I’ve recently started working on a book with similar themes within a theatre setting, so I wanted to pick this up and read it to make sure I don’t steer my story too closely towards this one. It’s by the author of The Luminaries.

*The Dust that Falls from Dreams, by Louis de Bernieres. I bought this over a year ago and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. All I know is that it’s about children in the Edwardian age as it disintegrates into the great war.

*Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. The 1000 page classic novel that my favourite musical is based off of. I really need to get around to reading this.

So they’re all of the novels that I’ve bought fairly recently and haven’t yet gotten around to reading. Have you read any of them? Which one should I read first?

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

 

Thursday Quotables: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”

Hi everyone,

I’m taking part in “Thursday Quotables” this week! It’s hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies, and it’s basically an activity that gets readers and writers to share their favourite quotes from the books they’re currently reading. All the contributors then link up to create a treasure trove of priceless quotes, and a whole new to-read list.

books0212tharoorThis week I’m reading “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. It’s a beautifully written book of non fiction that explores life in a Mumbai slum, and it has some incredible quotes, particularly in Abdul’s dialogue. Here is one of my favourites, where Abdul is convincing his parents not to marry him off:

“I hear of this love so often that I think I know it, but I don’t feel it, and I myself don’t know why,” he fretted. “These people who love and then the girlfriend goes away-they cut their arms with a blade, they put a cigarette butt out in their hand, they won’t sleep, they won’t eat, they’ll sing-they must have different hearts than mine.”

He told his parents, “You don’t hold a hot iron in your palm, do you? You let it cool. You think on it slowly.”

I haven’t quite finished reading it, but I’m definitely planning on writing a review once I’m done. Let me know in the comments which quotes from which books have stayed with you long after you finished reading them; I’d love to hear them!

Yours sincerely,

Tamara Drazic

Book Review: “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

a-visit-from-the-goon-squad

Think old school rock n’ roll. Think corrupt music industries, secrets, bands, friendships, family relationships, and the strange interconnectedness that music brings us. “A Visit From the Goon Squad” is best served in an off-beat laneway cafè with a side of soft electric guitar.

I haven’t read many books that have affected me quite like “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan did. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest that you go out and pick up a copy right now. If I had to say what the book is about, I’d say it’s a satire on the music industry, but there is so much more to it than that. It reads almost like a collection of short stories; I’d heard about this before I started reading it, and it kind of put me off. I love reading individual short stories, but the thought of reading a whole collection back to back kind of exhausts me. Despite this, I thought I’d give it a go, and I’m so glad I did.

Each of the segments pretty much stands alone. So much so that the opening story, “Found Objects”, was published in The New Yorker as a short story back in 2008. When you read the book all the way through however, it really does feel like a novel. The stories interweave in just the right way – not too much, not too little. The crossovers are hidden in the minor characters, as the individual stories slowly reveal each character’s backstory until you realise how they’re all connected.

The book starts out following Sasha, a kleptomaniac who works for Bennie, a music producer. The subsequent story is then told from the point of view of Bennie, and so begins an intricate web of character relationships that spans years into the past and future, all the way until the epic, spec-fic ending. I’ve never come across a novel that brings together different genres into a literary work so flawlessly.

“A Visit From the Goon Squad” has a kind of melancholic, almost doomsday mood to it, but this is balanced out by the sharp humour and truly believable and lovable characters. The characterisation is so subtle but so precise, and when I finished reading the last page I felt like I’d lost touch with my childhood friends.

If you like stories about artists, families, music, and human nature, you should definitely add “A Visit From the Good Squad” to your to-read list.

Yours Sincerely,

Tamara Drazic