You Outline? I Bet You’re Fun At Parties.
Being a balls to the wall week into the writing of this new endeavor, (and as an aside, I smell like sand dunes and sunshine right now.) I’ve realized a major part of why I am having such luck hammering through this bad boy is due to a single blog post I read in April of this year.
What an pretentious blog title, you say? That’s actually the name of the blog. It’s Rachel Aaron, and she deserves a hearty thank you, from me.
Why? Because she said in words I would actually listen to, exactly what I needed to hear.
So, before we get ahead of ourselves, go read her blog. I’ll wait.
Alrighty then, here’s the quote that stands out for me –
As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn’t describe anything, I didn’t do transitions. I wasn’t writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I’d worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I’d written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.
Toss the fancy metric and hullabaloo, here’s the meat of it – Plotting.
Now, I am NOT going to tell anyone with a fly by the seat of their pants nature as myself to sit their ass down and waste quality writing time trying to remember your sub-categories and what not – seriously, outlines are the biggest drag on the planet. Yet, despite my seething hatred of all things outline, I had finally come to the realization that an enormous amount of planning was taking place in my brain. I knew what happened in each of my stories, to some extent, and all that info was ‘filed’ away in my mind. And by filed away, I mean thrown about the room by an angry toddler who is more than likely the spawn of Satan. Still, the info was there, the details were there – but fuck you outlining! You sit in your fucking tower!
Ah, but plotting I realized, was what I was doing in the firing of each synapse, and not writing it down wasn’t doing anyone any favors.
So I gave it a whirl, took her advice as I came careening toward the last chapters of my last novel, and jotted down, chronologically what I saw happening in its approach to the final scenes. In doing so I realized, HOLY SHIT, I’m almost done! Shortly thereafter, I realized having that springboard to fall back on when I hit those lulls every 600 words kept me moving. Words poured out, word count kept coming, and as a result of having those notes, I always had something left in the well to start up the next day (or that evening, as when you’re close to done and the scenes are spot on, its hard to resist the story’s call).
That book reached its completion in record time for me, and above all else, I’d broken an unfortunate writing tick.
When you’re trudging through a scene, trying to decipher what’s happening in those in between moments, you dig, gauge, and chisel through the earth and find when you’re done, yes, you found your treasure, but there’s also this massive pile of dirt all around it. Guess what, dirt has to go somewhere.
That’s usually on the cutting room floor, as they say.
Thousands of words, pages of meandering, needless poetic waxing that in the end will never be read by anyone. This approach cuts that down enormously.
So though I make no claims of writing 10k a day (my brain taps out between 3 – 5 on my good days), I can claim that I come back to the page everyday. I don’t dread the drudgery, as there isn’t any anymore.
So thank you Rachel Aaron. you helped me get my shit together. In the immortal words of Elmore Leonard:
“Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”
Working on it.