Me — Outlining My Books

So, let me just say that this might be a boring read to the average reader. I’m going to be talking about what me planning process is like in regards to novels, along with what I’ve learned. Currently in the planning of a third novel, so I feel this is a great time to reflect.

Before I knew anything about writing, really, I figured that novels would come easy if I just built a world. I created Nacre Then and have spent years shaping and polishing it, and yet at this moment it still seems to me like an amorphous blob. I wrote Soldier of Nadu, and the first chapters of which were written over and over again. I wanted to make the first chapter perfect before I moved on to the next. Eventually, I said “No, it doesn’t work like that,” and moved on. In November of 2012, I participated in NaNoWriMo, and, having contemplated the plot of this book for years at this point, I blazed through the whole thing. At the time, I don’t think I had any sort of outline at all, but I figured I wouldn’t need one since this story had been in my head for so long.

I wrote the book, and to this day that first draft is the only ‘complete’ novel length story I’ve written. I have written about a third of a newer draft, and have written another, unrelated novel, but I’ll get to that. At this point, I said “This is good, but I definitely could have written it better with more outlining.” So, during the second draft I picked up years later, I wrote a paragraph on each chapter and wrote full, four page character bios on about eight different characters, many of whom didn’t even appear until later on in the book.

From that, I learned that I hate outlining. Writing down the necessary components of a book is all well and good, and I can tolerate that, but I simply cannot stand writing character bios anymore. They are just the worst. Maybe that’s simply a roadblock I’ll have to overcome, but writing character bios will only make me less likely to continue writing, which I think is the primary reason why I cut the second draft of Soldier of Nadu short: I simply wasn’t enjoying how much preparation I was putting into it.

This year, I had the idea of Dreamscape. I didn’t have much, so I took what I had and I kneaded the dough until I had a working outline. The furthest I had in regards to character bios were short, one sentence descriptions. I found that while writing this, since I didn’t have this huge, plotted out story, the book changed as I wrote it. I had an outline, but not having molded this novel for years meant that it hadn’t cooled enough to solidify. Everything shifted back and forth as I wrote, and so I feel my job became to let it twist how it wanted, as long as I can make the result of the chapter mean the same thing as it did in the original outline. There are more than one ways to do this, of course, so that’s how I decided to take it for this project. I did not revise any of the original outline, but since some things changed I did occasionally have to look back and take into consideration some of the things that I had mixed up.

Now, I move on to my third book, something I don’t even have a working title for. This novel is the first one I’m intentionally writing in the universe of Nacre Then, and it honestly kind of scares me. I still don’t even know whether I’m a discovery writer or an outline writer, but I am definitely not going into this new book without any outline. At the bare minimum, I want to write down the general plot of the “three act structure” I’m planning on actively trying for, but there are currently some huge blank spots in regards to character aspirations and plot. Maybe I should just try to write a working outline and then fill in the spots as I go. I want to start it really soon, but I need to get that done before I can even start, to ease my mind if nothing else. Plus, the first draft of Dreamscape isn’t done yet. I still need to work on that.

If I start writing right now, I’ll be writing the least developed story in the most developed world. But another thing is that I think the more I ponder the information I don’t have, the more I’m stressing out over how ill-prepared I am to write this book, and I know that that’s the wrong attitude to take. I know even established authors have bad days, so I can just tell myself that me thinking I’m not prepared is evidence that I am. Correlation proves causation, right? Right.

So, I hope to at least start writing the book as the next semester starts. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write since I’m taking the heaviest work load I’ve ever done in college, but we’ll see how it goes! I have to prepare myself for writing more than I want to, even more than I already have. This is a small step, but the more steps I take now, the further along I’ll be in the future. And that, of course, comes back to me needing to write this book.

That being said, I know this book is going to suck.

But of the three, it will probably be the best awful book I’ve written once I get it over with.

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