Small Victories

I did something this weekend that I’ve never successfully done before: I outlined my novel!

I know, I know, that’s not really a big deal for all you clever people out there who always outline your novel because you realized long ago the importance of having a track for your writing, so you at least know when you’ve fallen off of it. But I’m not as clever as all of you. I’m what they call a seat-of-the-pants writer. I get a basic idea that excites the hell out of me, a handful of characters that slap me around until I get them right, and a general idea of the ending… and then I write. I figure it out as I go, each scene as surprising as the next. This seems horrendously inefficient when I explain it like that, but it’s how I’ve always worked best.

So why outline now?

I’m beginning a second re-write of my current Work In Progress, a novel that has been an off and on love affair since 2008 (more obsessively the past two years…I kind of wrote it around The Poppet and the Lune). This new (and I hope final) version is a combination of version 1 and version 2, plus a little tweak that fixes a million different Problems I’d been having, so there is a lot less creativity involved at this point when it comes to the plot and structure of the story and character arcs. My job now is to write the scenes as beautifully and gut-wrenchingly and hilariously (you get the idea) as I can.

So I’ve outlined, essentially, to make a to-do list. Scene execution is the best part about writing–it’s the actually word play, the actual act of writing–so now it’s like I have this long to-do list full of things I can’t wait to do. Which is why this outline is so exciting!

I suppose what I can take away from this whole experience (if the outlining helps as much as I expect it will) is that perhaps my first drafts should be more like very detailed outlines. I can still write them seat-of-my-pants style, but also not lose as much when I discover plot holes or pacing issues. In writing version 3, I’m throwing away over 200,000 words from my previous versions. Which…ouch. Just ouch. Those are some really good words I’m tossing. But a novel isn’t just the sum of its pretty words–the pretty words need to weave within the structure of a well-crafted world and story.

We’re always learning about ourselves and our craft, aren’t we?

Anyway. I’m excited!

What about you? Do you outline, or write seat-of-your-pants? Do you perform major surgery on your first drafts to make the second draft work, or do you find most of the revisions in later drafts are less massive? Let me know! Sharing is caring!

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3 thoughts on “Small Victories

  1. Meg says:

    I’m often a mix of both “seat of my pants” and methodical. I outline in a way that I write out a flow of ideas from point A to point Z and then I’ll go chapter by chapter and kind of write out what I want to happen (including snatches of conversation sometimes). Then I’ll either sit down to write it out on the computer or long hand in the same notebook and edit as I go. Then make another editing pass when I type it (if I hand wrote) or send it to my friend for a beta read.

    I’m just writing fan fiction at this point, so I’m no where near the level of crafting that you are, but sharing IS caring and it’s fun to learn how other writers write.

    @chrisfitzner

  2. I’m a fly-by-the-seat writer for the first draft. By the end of the first draft, the story is generally different than I thought it was going to be with more quirky details. :) Then I tend to flesh out those things in next drafts so it seems less choppy and random. xo

  3. Sara says:

    So far, I’ve been a fly-by-the-seat type of writer mostly. Or have had some skeleton of an outline and gone by that, but it hasn’t worked out so great for me. I still have yet to finish a novel. However, Sarah gave me the great advice of outlining the rest of my book before I write and I think I’m going to try it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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