Book 2 Diaries: #3 — Outline is complete

Dear readers,

Good news: I recently finished my outline for Rhymes with Wisteria (working title of novel-in-progress). I’m not sure how it happened, because I’ve been a terrible writer for the past few weeks and have been neglecting my outline almost entirely. But a few nights ago, as I was trying to fall asleep, the ending came to me. I fought to open my tired eyes, I told myself that whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. Get up and write your outline. I don’t care that it’s 2:00am. Don’t fall asleep.

I fell asleep. But magically, I didn’t forget! I woke up with the story still fresh in my mind, and managed to write it all into my chapter by chapter outline. With the material I have, I’m estimating that this novel should get to around 80 000 words.

This feels really strange for me, as a past pantser. I’ve never managed to complete an outline before. I’m sure it’ll change along the way, probably quite drastically, but I have a very clear image of the ending. This outline has given my brain the freedom to think of scenes, dialogue, setting descriptions, and all sorts of snippets from different parts of the story. They come to me at random times throughout the day, and I tend to write them  in/on whatever I have at the time: receipts, notebooks, backs of hands. It’s strange to know so much about a story I have yet to write. It’s also extremely calming.

Now all there is left to do is write (and write, and write, and write).

Thank you so much for reading. I should be back to regular blogging once my university semester ends in June.
All the best with your writing,

Tamara

 

Header image [Used under creative commons license.]

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.]

Residency Day 10: Ups and Downs

Hi everyone,

Day 10 of my writing residency in Iceland is officially over, which means I’m a third of the way through! Time goes by so incredibly quickly while I’m working. I never have any idea which day of the week it is, because every day is pretty much the same. I wake up around 7:30, have breakfast with the incredible sunrise, check my emails, write, have lunch, go for a long walk, write, have dinner, chat with the other writer-in-residence, write, check my emails, catch up with friends and family back in Aus, and sleep.

Although I occasionally feel like I’ve fallen off the face of the planet and into some alternate dream-like universe, I have loved every minute of this residency. It has been the best thing I have ever done for my writing, full stop. I can see myself improving with almost every chapter. The rewriting process is going to be a lot of work, especially those earlier chapters, but for now, I’m purely focusing on getting this first draft down. It’s crazy to think that I am so close to finishing it now, this thing that used to seem like such a huge, impossible task.

Of course, I still have plenty of ups and downs with regards to this story. On a bad day, even the parts that I like the most can seem like the worst things ever written by anyone. But the good days make me forget all about that.

Reading through my journal always makes me laugh, and reminds me that my bad times never last very long. Let me welcome you into my mind:

***

4. March.

I think it’s really starting to dawn on me that I can actually finish this thing while I’m here. It was always the goal, but until now, I had my doubts. I have written three thousand words in the last three hours! Feeling good.

5. March.

HOW IS THIS THING GOING TO END? I HAVE NO IDEA. I hate everything I’ve written today. Why does it all just sound so clunky and flat? There is no actual ending in sight, because I just keep writing around and around in circles.

6. March.

I just outlined the rest of my novel. It’s so nice to know how the story is going to end, and so reassuring to have a little guide to which scenes I need to write on which days. Excited for tomorrow!

9 March.

This is really hard. It’s like spending all day every day focusing on the one thing you doubt about yourself the most. My mood is directly affected by how the story is progressing. I pretty much haven’t left my room in two days.

10 March.

I just came back from the most beautiful walk. It’s crazy that I’ve already hit my writing target for the day, and it’s just past lunch time! I am so excited to finish this thing! Not long now.

***

I don’t know if you are quite as extreme (or as melodramatic) as I am, but either way, I hope this post can serve as a little reminder that the bad times don’t last. If you manage to write through them, instead of giving up, you will eventually finish your novel. There’s nothing stopping you.

I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know how you get through your bad writing days in the comments below!

All the best,

Tamara