#IWSG-October Edition

It’s time for another IWSG post. Being part of such an amazing and supportive group of writers has already begun to have a positive affect. Reading inspiring messages, struggles, successes from others going through similar situations has been fruitful. The responses to last months blog post were motivational to me. I’m excited to see what others have written this month.

Check out the page here and join the group. The writer in you won’t suddenly be less insecure, but it will have an outlet among people who understand and want you to succeed.

What’s on my mind this month-

National Novel Writing Month is just a few weeks away, and for the third year in a row, I will participate. In each of the past two years, I have met the word goal of 50,000, and the sense of accomplishment has been wonderful, but the main purpose is to complete a first draft in that same time period. I have fallen well short of that goal in each attempt. This year will be different. I have a shorter book in mind and am starting to see how to get that idea on paper.

I am determined, but nervous.

My first two novels were written on the fly. I had direction, but not a clear vision, and while I was able to complete both drafts (the first in two months, the second in six), I often found myself wandering in dark places, wondering where to go next, often beating myself up along the way. This year, I want to prepare a story outline, plan events and moments better, and have a clear idea of how to get to the final page. I’ve rarely written like that and the closer to November I get, the more intimidating the prospect becomes. Locking myself into an outline can have disadvantages as well, and I don’t want to be so rigid, so determined to stay on course that I lose the spontaneity that has always been one of my strengths as a writer.

For those of you who outline, what is your process? Am I over analyzing here? When faced with a decision to alter or change the direction of the story or a character (and that moment will inevitably come), does the entire outline fall apart? I need some stories of success (or perhaps enough of failure that I scrap the idea altogether).

I’m eager to read your advice. Until next month, push on and push through. Write, write write.

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About Ryan Carty

There are some who call me, Tim?

29 responses to “#IWSG-October Edition”

  1. E.Arroyo says :

    I don’t outline when writing the first draft. But I do take notes after I write each chapter like where I want the character to go, conflicts etc. But the process at this stage is fluid.

    • fenster says :

      I take notes as well, and I love the fluidity of that writing process. I may just scrap the whole idea of a structured outline as it is so counter to the way I feel comfortable writing. I worry that where I think the story should go and where it will end up will negate the whole outline anyway.

  2. C.D. Gallant-King says :

    I’m trying outlining for the first time myself. If you figure out how to do it, lemme know. 😉

    IWSG October

  3. Liza says :

    I give you tons of credit for NaNo. I have never been able to ask it of myself. More power to you and wishing you the best!

  4. Lynda R Young says :

    I do outline, but my process is rather haphazard. I write my outline like I’d write the novel on the fly, only making shorter notes. Once the bones are in place, I fix it up so the flow of the story is tighter (but it’s all done in shortened note form with next to no dialogue). Best wishes for NaNoWriMo. It’s always fun to do.

    • fenster says :

      Thanks! I’m looking forward to it with the usual anticipation, joy, and dread. The outline idea is losing traction. I don’t want to undermine my own processes.

  5. Damyanti says :

    I don’t outline in the first draft, only in the second, when I have a sense of what my story is really about. If I outline, it all comes from my head, and then it gets very difficult to love it– it becomes like a non-fiction article. But a fiction first draft surprises me, and though it is more words on the page to do it this way– I know of no other…I wish I could outline the first drafts, but I can’t, not really.

    • fenster says :

      I’m not sure I can outline that first draft either. I worry it will burden my writing, not aid it. I can already imagine scenarios that disrupt the outline, making the whole process mute. I may try and write down some rough sketches, but even that seems too cumbersome.

  6. Hart Johnson says :

    I’m a bit cyclical. I try to do a TIMELINE of the big events up front, but then I keep adding details I don’t want to miss so often I will get to a section and have a lot there. In fact sometimes a whole future scene about something that will tie X to Y will come to me, or I will write something and don’t want to forget later repercussions… And of course I nearly never follow the plan to the end. Well, sometimes the end, but a lot in the middle changes… I like doing them, but if I am too rigid it makes the writing stale.

    • fenster says :

      I am a fan of using a notebook to jot down some ideas before hand. I’ve just never felt the need to structure things as much as I do this time. I want to be focused, but I worry that focus will slip and I’ll get frustrated. I like the idea of making sure the big moments get put in the right place at the right time. The details are always the fun part.

  7. A.J. Goode says :

    I don’t really outline. I scribble out a lot of notes and ideas and sort of piece them together to get a general idea of where I want the plot to go. Then I scribble new notes and throw away a lot of the old ones while I’m writing.

    I’ve been trying something new with my current WIP, though. I went to a writing workshop led by Ami Hendrickson, and she talked about the 15 “story beats” that should go into every story. She recommended the book “Save the Cat.” I’m using a lot of what I learned from her and from the book, and I feel like I have a much better grasp on my plotting.

    So . . . .I am learning to outline, and I think it’s making me a better writer. But time will tell, I suppose. If this newest book bombs, I’m going back to my old method!

    • fenster says :

      That first process feels better to me. I’m thinking that I don’t really want to compose a rigid outline, and I’m not sure it will make me focus any better on the goal. Those moments when the writing takes you places you don’t expect and the story changes direction, I worry I’d want to stay on course and resist. That wouldn’t be good. Good luck on the new project.

  8. Shell Flower says :

    I’ve done Nanowrimo every year since 2011 or so and the one time I had an outline I wrote waaay outside the outline within the first 50 pages, but I won’t say it was bad to have an outline. That same year my dad died mid-November, so I ended up writing the last 20,000 words in the last weekend of the month. Seriously. It was intense, but the outline did help me win. Still, it also taught me that outlines are only just ideas and your characters will always have their own way.

    • fenster says :

      I love that last sentence. I thought it was total BS until my last NaNo effort. We write these characters, but they do want their own way. This is good advice. Thanks for the comment.

  9. cgcoppola says :

    Oh geez… I’m a panster myself. I usually figure out the story whilst I’m writing and believe me, the characters and plots have a mind of their own! I say do what feels comfortable. Everyone has their own style. Good luck to you!

  10. Mandy says :

    I don’t participate in Nanowrimo, so unfortunately I don’t have any good advice. I guess I would say focus on getting your writing down and worry about editing or making it cohesive later. It doesn’t have to sound like a perfect novel the first time it’s written. Good luck!

    • fenster says :

      Agreed. My first two books came into being that way, just getting it out on the page. I write better than way, but it is a longer process to even complete the manuscript. I’ve always made the word count with nano, just not the complete draft. This time, I’m determined. Thanks for commenting.

  11. kimlajevardi says :

    I have a loose outline when I begin the first draft, so I meander a bit during drafting. I tighten up as I revise. Good luck with your NaNo project.

    • fenster says :

      Loose seems to be the best option. I’m pretty sure a more rigid outline would suck most of the joy out of the writing. It’s hard enough already.

  12. Angeline says :

    I never plotted. I loved the excitement of letting a first draft lead me on an unknown journey. That works fine for shorts, but I quickly found that I couldn’t write longer pieces like that.

    So yes, now I plot. It’s bare bones, nothing more. The important story moments. But, when I get stuck, I find that stepping away from the computer, picking up a felt tip pen, and plotting out the next few chapters in more detail works brilliantly. I don’t plot out every chapter, just when my momentum stalls.

    Good luck for NaNo, I’m also in again this year!

    • fenster says :

      I tend to write my way out of those stalled moments with rambling, often silly sentences, but I like the idea of actually using a pen, not a keyboard to regain momentum. Good luck to you as well!

  13. Heather M. Gardner says :

    I never write with an outline, but I know it works for so many people.
    Maybe if you do your outline/plotting on index cards, you can remain flexible. Change your mind and just change the card.
    Best of luck in November.

    • fenster says :

      Interesting idea with the index cards. If I change my mind, may have to change all the remaining cards, which gives me flexibility, but might still make the outline mute. I’m sure I’m overthinking this whole thing. Why do I do that to myself? Ugh.

  14. Mason T. Matchak says :

    I’m a plotter, through and through – I can’t write a story worth reading without knowing what’s going to happen. But I always leave myself room for things to change along the way. I say, set it down so you know what’s happening when and to whom, but don’t define every moment of every scene. No matter how much you put into it, the plot can always end up like the Pirates’ Code – more like guidelines.

    And if your characters take off and start doing their own thing despite your plot, just go with it. ^_^

  15. libertyfallsdown says :

    I’ve done both – on the fly and extensively outlined. Currently most of the way through a project that had a very clear outline, and while it stuck to it in the beginning, now I’m near the end it’s deviated wildly! So you can’t win sometimes, either way 😀

  16. ahtdoucette says :

    I’ve tried both outlining and pantsing. I think they both have their good points. When I have successfully outlined in the past it’s been by basically writing it in narrative-like form, in other words not like a college-style outline with a tree-structure but closer to a synopsis. And yes, it veered out from the initial thought-structure when I wrote it, but I felt like I needed that narrative feel. Good luck!

  17. Julie K Pick says :

    I usually outline a short story in my head, which helps with the writing process. This technique probably wouldn’t work as well for longer material. You may want to try different approaches with the first few chapters until you find the rhythm that works best for you.

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