I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.
At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.
Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.
I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.
I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.
Because that’s what makes it fun.
Are we all revising like bunnies?
Yeah, I have no clue what that simile means, either. But aren’t they cute?
- First, I printed out all my chapters.
- Then, put together a bunch of note cards with the stuff that happens in my manuscript, chapter by chapter.
That concludes my recap.
Yes, yes, I know I am a sworn pantser. But there comes a time in everyone’s life when only an outline will do. My time is AFTER the first draft.
Bob is in pretty good shape, but there are threads in the beginning of the manuscript I’d forgotten about by the time I got to the end. Miraculously, many of them tie in nicely with later plot points.
I think that’s because I let my subconscious play.
Some ideas didn’t turn out well and were abandoned. When I’m first-drafting I don’t go back and rewrite unless I’m really stuck. I try to keep moving forward in the story, as I tend to ruminate on perfect turns of phrase. Which is ridiculous at a stage when I’m writing whole chunks of manuscript that might be thrown out.
After I write the outline of my first draft AS IS, I can go through and make the choices of threads to keep, threads to drop, threads to connect.
I make sure the plot is logical.
That the subplots ENHANCE the main plot.
Then I write another outline AS IT WILL BE. This is what I’ll work off of for my second draft.
But. There’s one other thing I have to settle on before I start the second draft….
WHICH I’LL TALK ABOUT NEXT WEEK.
I’m either very, very brave…
…or very, very stupid.
I’ve just finished chapter seventeen of my WIP. It’s was a big son-of-a-wookie. Originally 2100 words, I managed to whittle it down to 2255. (!!!) What’s next? Why, chapter 18, of course. Duh!
Oh. You want to know what’s going to go in chapter 18.
Absolutely no clue.
Now, before you HAVE A FREAK OUT, I never know what’s going to go in the next chapter. I know where my WIP is going, I generally know where it’s going to end up, but I don’t know how it’s going to get there. And I like it that way.
Last week, while I was waiting for the orthopedist to put his unbearably cold mitts on my bum knee, I realized something about the denouement of my WIP that I hadn’t before. (I don’t like it, but that’s the way it’s got to happen.) If I had the thing already all mapped out, it would have been a lot harder for me to think “outside the box” and come up with my extremely brilliant plot point. And even harder to change something I had already worked into a detailed outline.
I’ve heard/read/made up people who say they’re “afraid” to proceed with their writing without a plan. Heck, where’s the fun in that? I suspect people who say they hate writing but love having written might have taken all the joy out of their discovery process by planning their masterpiece within an inch of its life.
Don’t be so afraid of hitting a wall that you take the same four-lane highway every hack does. Take the backroads, the country lanes. Machete your way through the jungle. That’s where you’re going to find the treasure.
Yeah, I love a metaphor.