When I started my WIP I busted out a rough outline (sideways against wide yellow rule), like I always do. (At least for the 2 1/2 manuscripts I’ve written this year.) I don’t do chapter outlines. Hell, I barely stick to rough plot diagrams with key points. My stories tend to take on lives of their own, moving and shifting in much better directions than I had originally planned.
(I kid you not–in my last manuscript I didn’t know who the killer was going to be until the last chapter or so. After I figured it out I went back and added things to point to certain characters and distract from others. The story turned out so much better for it. Had I known all along I think I would’ve made it too obvious.)
Anyway, for my current work I laid out major obstacles. I had the beginning point (cleverly labeled “beg”) start at 0 (aren’t I a creative genius?), and had the end point (again brilliantly labeled “end”) wrap up at page 400. I knew to keep the momentum moving I needed a series of turning points to twist and turn the action into different directions. (Thank you oh wise turning-point yoda Jennifer Crusie.) At the 200 mark I wrote down the most major thing that needed to happen to propel the rest of my book forward like a speedtrain. (I’d tell you what that thing is, but then I’d have to kill you. Muah-ha-ha! Seriously though, this puppy’s gonna be on store shelves *I know it* so you’ll have to wait to read it.)
However, one obstacle (no matter how large and overpowering) wasn’t enough. People don’t only have one challenge in life, oh no. When the dishwasher breaks so does the garbage disposal, didn’t you know? So at page 100 and 300 I added two more major events to jam things up a bit. Okay, I like conflict so those events jackhammer my characters to bits. But it’s fun to watch them toil and sweat….and eventually grow. I know what’s better for them, really I do.
Now for my last two manuscripts I kinda did the same thing minus the page numbers because really, come on, who sticks to page number outlines?
This girl does. That’s right.
I checked my progress against the outline tonight and guess what? It’s right on target. I’m talking precise to the page number. Ever heard the saying that when you’re on a diet program it takes 21 days for your body to realize you’re doing something different and positively react to the program? (If you haven’t take heed.)
Well I’m beginning to think writing is like a diet program. You have to work on it every day for it to become a habit. If you cheat and skip days you’re only hurting yourself and your work will suffer for it. You’ll see progress if you stick to your guns. (Or rather the keyboard) (Unless you’re doing research at the gun range for your next novel) (Ha! I crack myself up) Staying positive and surrounding yourself with people who support you is the way to make it to your end goal.
And apparently the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Look at me–I’m an outlining fool! Who would’ve thought? (Peanut gallery keep your hands down.) From total pantser to reluctant outliner. Now if I could only get that darn dieting thing down…