The joys of outlining

That has to be one of my most sarcastic titles I’ve ever written. The joys of outlining…excuse me while I weep silently into my pillow. *Muzak version of Pharrell Williams Happy plays in the background while writer wails miserably into a pillow* Sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I’m a little tired right now. Maybe I’m still emotional after Seattle’s Super Bowl loss on Sunday. Back to the reason I’m writing today….

I’m working on outlining my book, hoping to get a visual of my story main points and how it fits together so I can rip it apart and put it back together. I’m deconstructing the book scene by scene, highlighting the main points in each. It’s been slowing going so far. I’m only on chapter two, but I also didn’t do a thing yesterday. I’m off from work today, so I play to catch up and get as much done as I possibly can.

I’ve never worked with an outline before. I confess this to my friend who wrote back in astonishment that I could have gotten through college without learning how. In fact I did learn how, but it’s not a practice I’ve kept up with. I always felt that it constrained my writing so I didn’t bother to remember. It’s coming back to me, and I still hate it! But as I put the outline together, I’m grudgingly having to admit that it may be a useful skill to have.

Though I am far from done, I’m convinced this exercise will help me make a better umpteenth draft. There is one scene in particular that bothers me, but not so much that it’s there but rather because of the person to whom the story is being told. I’m hoping to find a better place for it and maybe this process will help me locate it. The other option is to cut it out, which I’m not entirely adverse to, but I believe the back story the scene shows is important. We’ll see how it goes.

If this works, I will apply this process to another book I’ve already written but needs a lot of work. Maybe this is the tool I’ve been needing in order to progress to the next step in my desire to become a published writer. Only time will tell, as the saying goes, but there’s another saying that may be more appropriate. “Get off your fat ass and get to work!”

I think we can all agree those are truly words of wisdom. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an ass that needs getting off of, but ironically I’ll have to sit on it to get this particular work done.

Beta-Review Blues(?)

Yesterday I came home to see a message from one of my beta-readers and a PDF of her notes. I felt at once excited and wary by what the notes would contain. Would she like it? Hate it? Tell me to jump off a cliff? It’s like opening a present when you don’t know if the contents will be something awesome or maybe something that will kill you.

“Look! A present!” Opens box and it explodes.
~The end~

I’ll admit that I had a hard time reading it. I was nervous but my doubts were quickly dispelled. She started off being complimentary, stating my book “has a real chance at a main-stream publisher and main-stream audience,”  before going in and giving me her impressions and suggestions. Some I agreed with, others I didn’t, but at no time did she come across as either cruel or condescending. My friend gave me her opinions, the reasons for stating them, and I felt that she truly wants to help me write a great book.

One of the main problems with my present draft, and it’s one that another reader addressed, is that I take too long to get my story started. My hook doesn’t come until chapter six and it needs to be moved a closer to the beginning. There are a few story-lines that need to be reduced or eliminated. Then there’s some behavioral issues that need to be fixed, ones that as a man I never would have thought of but a woman would question immediately. I guess that means I don’t know women as well as I thought! To all my female readers, please don’t roll your eyes at me. Don’t think I didn’t see that.

I also have some opportunities to fix stilted dialogue. I already knew that, by the way. It’s one of my weaknesses in that I can say everything I want to say, as expressively as I want, using language as it ought to be used, and how I have trouble using it in real life. Sometimes it comes out skewed; technically correct but not quite right. I’ll have to do a read-through or a hundred to fix it.

There are a few more suggested corrections, but I don’t want to bog this down by listing everything in the review. Besides, I don’t want to give away the ending. You’ll have to buy the book to see! Every one of her points will be considered and I’m sure I’ll make most, if not all, of the changes she thinks my book needs. I trust her judgment.

And now to the blues part of my review….

I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! Sorry for yelling, it’s just that I’m sorting out her suggestions, trying to work it out in my head, needing to find a way to implement the changes without destroying the integrity of the whole. I learned that a book is a lot like a tapestry and pulling at one thread can unravel the whole story if one is not careful.

What I’ll need to do is write an outline of what I have and then create an outline of what I want the finished product to be. I’ve never plotted, never outlined, never had an overarching plan of what I want from my story. I may have a general idea in mind, but I’ve been a pantser since I started. If I do this – and by if I mean I’m going to do it – it’ll be a new skill I’ll need to learn.

All that I need now is to decide on a time-frame to finish this. Tentatively, I’ll give myself the rest of the month to get this rewrite done, since I’ve never done this comprehensive a rewrite with suggestions in mind. It’s scary, which is to say exciting, and I can’t wait to start. I also can’t wait to finish it so that I can begin to look for someone to proofread the manuscript, then I can find a cover artist!

Now if only I could find a title!

Struggles in outlining

Outlining my story was a great idea! I can’t believe just how much easier it is for me to write with this crisp new outline in front of me! Well, maybe not. Outlining hasn’t gone too well. So far all I have to show for my troubles are several aborted attempts. A pantser I remain, for now.

My problem is that I don’t know how to outline. I’m trying to put too much detail into the outline, but I don’t really know what’s going to happen, other than a vague idea of where I want my story to go, and a few key scenes I would like to include. To make a comparison to real life, it’s like knowing where I want to drive to, where I’m starting, but only knowing the general direction I’ll take. Lubbock, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts? I’ll just drive north and east and I’ll get there eventually.

Actually, that sounds like fun, and potentially the makings of another epic “Amy Adventure,” but that’s a story for another time.

I know the ending to the series, though I haven’t sat down and written it down. I know what the problem is going to be in the first book, but not how to resolve it. I vaguely want the second book to focus on Lily’s relationships with everyone around her, and her adversary’s attempt to subvert those ties in order to weaken her. I know Lily will make an unlikely alliance in the third book to defeat her adversary, though it comes with a cost.

Lily’s relationship with her dead mother will come more into focus as Lily learns more about her and the reason for her apparent neglect and unfortunate demise. My character will have to grow up and live up to a destiny that many before her refused to take.

What I hope will work out is the nature of Lily’s enemy. That has me worried because it’s either the best idea ever written, or the worst. It excites me and terrifies me as the same time. I need to finish it before I’ll know for sure.

Writing is a scary endeavor. I’ve gotten used to posting my thoughts on this blog, so now I’m working towards a grander goal. I’ve been hoping to cross this one last goal line, though I’ve been putting it off. I think I’m about ready to put myself out there to be scrutinized, to have my books out to be criticized as either good or bad. As much as I wanted it, I wasn’t strong enough emotionally for it. I am now, I think.

I’ll get back to creating a general outline for Lily, and hope that it is detailed enough for me to work with, but flexible enough for me to create an organic and fluid narrative. I’m still a long ways away from finishing Book One, but in all honesty, I’m closer to being done than I would like.