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Personal notes

Outlining progress in a novel

Outlining. It’s something I know would help me, but I always run into a cognitive blockade translating the vision in my head into something sensible. In my head? It’s a three dimensional tapestry of interlocking pieces that converge to tell a story. On paper? It’s a mishmash of words that are fairly incoherent, volatile, and likely to be incomplete and therefore abandoned early.

“It’s all right,” I always tell myself. “I’ll fix the outline later. For now, let’s just get some writing done!” And I do. Often times a solid 30,000+ words. The problem is that although I bristle at the thought of following a guideline – who am I to tell me what to write?!? – the resulting story is often far more coherent in the parts where I did sit down ahead of time and map something out.

The problem that has always plagued me, I think, is the thought that it has to be a written outline. Bear with me on this one.

I was watching a Brandon Sanderson video on plotting the other day and in a not quite roundabout way, it led me to drawing out a map of the WIP I want to be working on (but refuse to put any solid words towards until there is an outline).

A funny thing happened. As I drew out the map, marking points where things needed to happen in the story, even where they should happen, I found myself doing more. Part worldbuilding, part storybuilding, I began making notes of things that had to happen here*, before this* or that*. And that’s when I realized, as I was drawing this map to frame the progress of the story with, I was also drawing an outline.

I still have a ways to go. Right now I have these pages in a small Field Notes notebook, and some poor attempts at digitizing the maps I’ve created. (Side note: it doesn’t seem like the same creative neurons are triggered drawing with a mouse on screen as with a pen and paper. Some are fired, but not the same ones.) But it’s progress on an outline, and I’ll take it.

Of course, that said, I’m getting antsy. There is only so much thinking I can do about a story before I need to dig in and start writing. I began this blog post a week ago. I’ve done little to alter the map since then, an indicator (to me) that the next creative step is to actually start putting words down. I’ve a rough outline, grounded with the map. I expect I will stray from the outline at times, but with the map in hand I hope to remain consistent no matter what.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Although my blog is setup to post across multiple platforms, I don’t actually go to Facebook more than once a month or so, Tumblr even less so. Thanks for visiting!

Looking back with 20/20 vision

I’m sure plenty of people will make a joke about 20/20 vision. Probably already have.

2019: what a year. I had goals and dreams, most of them dashed on the rocks of reality. A year filled with unexpected surprises, few of them good. I’ve mulled over this post for longer than I should. It should have been posted in late December, or at least last week, when the year was still fresh.

 Losing my parents this year was a hard blow, one I still haven’t quite recovered from. I miss them, in ways I never would have realized. It also put perspective on life, how I live it, and what I do with it. No grand resolutions, no heartfelt promises of change, in life or blog. But there are definitely things stewing, ideas and dreams that I realize now need to be realized or perish.

Welcome to 2020, friends. Now let’s kick some ass and chew some gum, and leave a legacy people will remember, whether that be in print or action, thought or deed. Let’s get it on.

NaNoWriMo: Week Four

Well, tomorrow we kick off the fourth and final week of NaNoWriMo. By the end of week two, I was flying high. My story was flowing, the words were tamed, I was the captain of my destiny. I had what I’ve coined my “Focus” – that combination of organization, train of thought, and action that come together when things are going well.

Then we had week three. I can literally pinpoint the time – it was just after a 3pm meeting on Tuesday last week, at roughly 3:30, that the plague erupted in my head. Maybe it was because of Kumoricon the weekend before (and why I missed a blog post, eek), and this was con crud. Or maybe it was just a bad head cold and would have happened regardless. Either way, 3:30 Tuesday I went from “hey!” to a sickly jerk.

Needless to say, for three days, I didn’t write. I whined a lot. There was a fog in my brain. Much tissue was used.

Late Thursday I started feeling better, and by Friday all I had left were the sniffles. At first, I felt daunted. I was behind by three days. How could I catch up? And then I realized, I could, because I had always baked extra time into my word goals. I just hadn’t planned on that time being used like this.

To “achieve” the 50k of NaNoWriMo, you need to write at least 1,666 words a day for 30 days. But I had been tracking closer to 2,000 words a day. I actually had a little overhead. I was still behind after three days, but I wasn’t egregiously behind. So starting Friday, I wrote.

7,377 words later, I am caught up with the average NaNo participant. I passed the 40k mark today, and have no reason to believe that I won’t finish, maybe even a little early. A little. Like, minutes.

And what happens after NaNo? Because the novel will be at 50k, but it won’t be “done.” Oh, no. I estimate this will be about the 70k mark based on how much is left to say/write, and where I am in the plot currently. So the writing will continue. What will change is the pacing (a little). I said at the start that the pace of NaNo was unmaintainable – as soon as I hit that 50k, I will be dialing it down to a 750 words a day goal (the three page goal). I may go over, I may adjust that number over time, but that’s what I’d like to aim for. Enough writing to keep the juices flowing without the pressure to produce words at any cost.

And that’s where I am at the start of week four! See you on the other side of the 50k marker.

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