Thanks to Anya’s post on navel-gazing and a much needed GChat talking to, I sat down today to properly outline, for the first time. I’ve never been much of an outliner (I always hated when teachers made you outline your paper/essay!), and going into NaNoWriMo, there wasn’t enough direction/characterization/plot to warrant it anyway.
But now I’m 18K in, my characters have backstories, passions, personalities and ticks and, most importantly, the plot has definitive direction. I’ve been doing a lot of navel gazing, as Anya wrote, and it’s time to snap out of that. No more skipping scenes because I don’t want to write them, or simply because I don’t know what comes next. If I don’t know what gets me from scene to scene, chapter to chapter, there’s a problem. I started my outline, and immediately a few things became clear to me: 1) what I have so far lacks continuity (insomuch as realistic exposition is concerned — my MCs were asking the right questions far too late in the text), 2) Skander needs more to do if he’s going to carry his own chapters and 3) It’s time to get the first half dozen chapters hammered out.
I outlined up to chapter eight, reorganized my Scrivener files a bit and wrote some scene filler and transition. Now I’m over 20K! It feels like I’m back on track, and once I’ve got chapters 1-6 done (bearing in mind that chapters 1 and 3 are rather short, and chapters 2 and 4 were already practically done), I plan to properly outline the rest of the book and use my outline to keep everything running smoothly. I will jump ahead where its warranted (I mean, if I’m super excited to write something, I need to get that out!), but my aim to write chronologically whenever possible.
I think if I’d started out with an outline a month ago, it would have been the wrong choice. I’ve been stymied in my novel writing in the past because I over think and over plan — get so caught up in world building and figuring everything out that I can’t see the trees for the forest. For me, it was important to take this novel one tree at a time, figure out what kind of forest they were in, and THEN incorporate those trees int the forest I had constructed. (HOLY MIXED METAPHOR, BATMAN!) If you’re not an outliner, that’s OK, but some of us NEED an outline at a certain point. It lends your novel cohesion, and should save you from huge rewrites later.
From this point forward, my outline helps me stay on track, especially when it comes to character motivation, story flow and continuity.