The Write Life: Outline – Revise – Surprise!

This month my writing life was focused almost exclusively on outlining. (Also on Kate Bishop, since I wrote an article about the other Hawkeye for SlashFilm in anticipation of the Disney+ Hawkeye series debuting Nov 24.)

DragonCon kicked off my September with a workshop by Bethany Kesler called “This Is How We Time/Space Travel and Other Chronological Pitfalls.” Bethany’s session got me thinking about leaning into the alternate history of my Gay Airship Pirates novel, and I started noodling new options for the outline.

How would I emphasize the historical elements when I hadn’t framed the story around history? Does the history complement the story I actually want to tell? Am I putting too much pressure on myself by developing a historically based world?

I put all these questions aside while I worked on a new plot, shifting the antagonist’s focus and grand plan, and retooling the breadcrumbs that would allow the heroes to discover (and be threatened by) this new mystery. Some things didn’t work as neatly as they did in the previous outline, but I figured out a stronger motivation for the opening scene, there weren’t any huge gaps, and I added a longer denouement that more fully resolved one character’s emotional journey.

And then I was selected for a one-on-one with Hannah Kates during the virtual writing retreat Write Hive Lite. (Insert pitch to check out the Write Hive community and all their valuable programming.) Obviously, I needed Hannah to look at my new outline, right?

I submitted my outline for her review and then sat back to think… about those questions I asked myself and then ignored. 😬

Here’s a secret a lot of writers hate to know: when you’re struggling to make a decision, you have the answers, you just want someone else to tell you that you’re right. And that is exactly what my one-on-one with Hannah turned into. I knew what I wanted to do with the story and how I wanted to proceed, but I needed someone enthusiastic about the premise and who had distance from the years-long development process to tell me to trust my instincts.

Which is why I’m revising the outline. Again. To remove the historical elements. 😂

But here’s the awesome thing about doing all that work focused on bringing in more history: I now know that’s not what I want to do. Up until now, I’ve been second-guessing myself and allowing that doubt to hinder my progress. Also, looking at the story from a different angle let me find new solutions to old problems and I’ve got a better outline because I did the work!

The planning stages of writing can be frustrating and sometimes un-fun, but it’s important to put in the time thinking about a story and how everything comes together to ensure the story actually works once you get to drafting. Having an impartial person to talk to about that process was exactly what I needed to move forward.

This seems like a good time to mention that while I’m currently closed to new patrons for my editorial tiers, I’ll be opening new Patreon tiers later this month. The best way to get notified of when they’re available is to follow me on Patreon or Twitter.

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

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