Working With (and Around) an Outline

squirrely plot diagram

Why didn’t I ever try a detailed outline before? Live and learn, I suppose.

Things are gliding along in Featherfolk draft IV. Plus, I’m right on track for my 10,000-word November goal!

I regret not one moment of the time I spent outlining. I kept itching to dive in, but I held back and laid the groundwork first. It’s wonderful to have some of the imagination heavy-lifting already taken care of.

Of course, my outline is far from perfect. I already had one scene turn out different than I expected. One of my characters refused to act how I assumed he would. When I realized that, I let him be. I made some mental tweaks to upcoming scenes, and things are going to work out.

I highly reccommend outlining. It may feel like you’re not getting anything done because you aren’t writing, but it’s worth it. I promise.

Happy Yarning!

Outlines and Causality

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(Photo credit: Anita Pratanti CC)

My friend Annaliese recently told me about some advice she heard at a writing conference she attended. In a synopsis (or outline), it’s important to not only tell a series of events but to link them by actions on the part of your main characters.

Instead of “this happens, and then this other thing happens, and then this other thing happens,” say “this happens, and so she does this, and because of that this other thing happens.”

Notice how the second story sounds more like something you want to read?

As I finish my outline for Featherfolk draft four, I’m paying particular attention to causality and how my main character’s actions shape her story.

Happy Yarning!

Icky Middles

I’m taking the time to carefully outline Featherfolk draft four. I’m a plotter, even though I tend to write by the barest of outlines and the seat of my pants. This inevitably creates problems for me farther down the draft.

Now I’m wrestling with the middle of the story, and I remember why Carol calls middles icky.

That part of my outline needs more flesh on it. I can tell because it’s the part I try so hard to convince myself is just fine with its few flimsy ideas. The part I’m afraid to touch because it might collapse like a card house and bring other chunks of the plot with it.

Miscellaneous Playing Cards
(Photo credit: Philippa Willitts CC)

But this time–

I’m going to poke all those flimsy places until they straighten up and stand. Even if it means re-structuring the plot and sequence of events around them again and again.

It’s worth it.

Happy Yarning!

Surprising Myself

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I just finished reading over the first draft of Featherfolk! When I began, I wasn’t sure if the manuscript had sat long enough for me to gain the distance and fresh eyes I need to revise.

As I read, I realized enough time had passed. I kept discovering small twists and turns I forgot I wrote. One bit the other day was so perfect and unexpected. It made me feel very clever indeed.

Thinking back, that particular twist was not part of my original outline. It came to me as I wrote, following naturally from the words and scenes I’d already typed.

I want to do that. Over and over. I want to surprise and delight myself.

Because if I can do that, I can surprise and delight others.

And that’s why I wanted to tell stories in the first place.

Happy Yarning!