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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.

The Write Life: A Focused January

January was certainly a difficult month for finding focus, but somehow, I chipped through the distractions a little at a time to get myself organized for the next few months. Much of that organization came in the form of setting up a Click-Up workspace so I could lay all my various projects and schedules side-by-side to have a closer look at the overlap and impact of saying “yes” so many times.

It’s been a lot of work to get organized—and I still have many projects that haven’t been fully mapped—but getting the majority of the next couple months captured in the same space is helping me feel more in control of my goals and obligations.

In general, I’ve been doing a lot more planning than I have in the past, including planning my writing projects. I talked last month about how I began breaking a steampunk novel into a three-part novella, which has required a lot of different stages of outlining and using multiple tools for organizing. I continued that planning work in January, applying some of the same organizational tools to smaller projects, which made setting up an outline for a short story a breeze—it also alerted me early on that the number of subplots I had dreamed up would put a heavier load on the story and I should either expect a longer word count or pull out the scissors.

(Some of those organizational tools I’ll be talking about in upcoming Writer Resources posts on Patreon, so if you’re planning a novel-length or series project and are cultivating ideas for tackling it, consider joining my Patreon at the $2 level to gain access to those posts and downloads of the tools I created for this process.)

The month hasn’t been all organization, though, because in addition to outlining and looking at project scopes, I also took the first steps toward the goal of writing 250,000 words this year. That word count is almost 20,000 words north of what I wrote last year, but when I listed all my projects and the probable word counts, it actually seems doable. Setting year-long writing goals can be a struggle in a normal year, but after the chaos of 2020, I think I’m ready to set a few:

  1. Write 250,000 words over the year.
  2. At least once a week write 1,000+ words in one day.
  3. Complete whatever monthly projects I set. (A little vague here since projects will change month to month, but I want to emphasis completing projects this year rather than just making progress on them.)
  4. And of course, write at least 250 words every day.

What writing goals are you setting for 2021?

 

 

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.

The Write Life: Fresh Start December

Normally at this time of year I do an end-of-year assessment on the goals I set in January, or do some kind of wrap up to talk about what I achieved. But 2020 was so wildly unpredictable that most goals I set for myself quickly morphed, and I came to accept that writing things that made me happy was more important than anything else.

Even so, in this last month, I finally started a project I’ve been putting off all year.

The last time I re-submitted revisions on my agent pursuit, I came up with the wild idea to split my finished novel into a novella trilogy. I decided to wait through one last round for agents to respond, then a publisher’s open call, before dedicating myself to dividing the novel for self-publishing.

…And then I waited two more months because who wants to do all that extra work if you can just keep waiting???

But as I waited, I thought more about what the revision from novel to novella series would look like, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it (even if I kept procrastinating on making a mess out of something that was “done”).

In December, I finally bit the bullet, split my Scrivener file, and started outlining each part as a separate novella. The original novel structure with three distinct acts means making the initial split was easy, but work still needs to be done to establish inciting incidents for each part and ensure each book resolves a major conflict. (Also, increasing the word count overall, or else I’ll have a short story and two short novellas.)

So far, the first novella is fully mapped out, and the existing parts from the other two have been structured so I have some idea of what’s missing. I still have some planning to go before I start writing, but I’m expecting these revisions (and prepping the series for self-publishing) to be my major project through most of 2021. I’ll be launching some new tiers and rewards on Patreon to support this project, so if you’re interested in reading more about the self-publishing process or seeing previews of the work-in-progress, keep an eye out for that announcement, likely in February or early March.

 

 

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.