I wrote my first novel with no outline at all. Copious notes for research filled my notebook and Word files. But I wrote… as a pantser… and I don’t do pantser well. It took me three years to complete the rough draft, including several bouts of writer’s block when I didn’t know how to transition from one scene to another. I took a workshop with David Annandale and he said to me some magic words… “Then don’t transition. Skip it and write what comes next. You’ll transition on your re-write.” (or something close to those words) Well, thank you David. Within a couple of months I finally finished my first draft. Setting it aside for a few weeks, I did a second draft. A year later I was still not happy with it. Finally, last fall, I wrote an outline for each chapter and a timeline. I realized I had whole sections of the story out of place. The flow wasn’t right. Things didn’t happen in order. I had to do a major overhaul of re-writing and move entire scenes. After outlining, I knew where these scenes had to move to. And where to make my story stronger. However, it now requires so much work, I feel overwhelmed and anytime I think of pulling it out, I just… well, don’t. However it is one of my goals.
I wrote my second novel using this book:
Ready, Set, NOVEL! by by Lindsey Grant, Tavia Stewart-Streit and Chris Baty
I began with an idea in March (2012), purchased this book in about May, spent majority of our driving time on our camping trip to Niagara Falls with this book on my lap (in July) and wrote and wrote and wrote. I followed many of the directions, however, I found that I changed up several of the activity suggestions to create scenes that would more likely show up in my book later. I used it as a guide. When I finished the book, I had outlines or snippets of several scenes written and most importantly a detailed timeline for not only my main character but my secondary characters as well. My timeline included the main plot line plus the subplots and when they come in to the story. Instead of writing the novel in chronological order from beginning to end, I wrote it in scenes. My timeline had them all outlined (and with David’s words of ‘transition later’) I felt free to write whatever scene struck me at that time. I started the first draft the first week of August and completed 30,000 words by mid-September. I then re-wrote it three or four times by November. Since then, I’ve had five writer friends from my critique groups read the entire manuscript and I’ve taken in all of their suggested changes and I’ve re-written it a further six to eight times (including changing the ending). My goal by March of this year, is to be submitting it to publishers. One year… much improved over book one.
I am sold on outlining and timelines. As I start my new novel I am experimenting with yWriter software. (Downloadable for FREE here: yWriter5) It’s going a little slow, as user-friendly as the program is, there’s still a learning curve. And I’m figuring out how it’s going to work for me. But I intend to completely outline this novel before writing a single word into a draft. I like the feeling of knowing where my story is going. With this new story I am thinking of the outline as the first draft. So much easier to move story sections around when it’s all in point form.
I’ll keep you posted about my experience with yWriter. Do you outline? Not outline? What’s your writing process?
(¸.•´ (¸.•* Suzanne Costigan writes middle grade and YA novels. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada with James, her children, three dogs and four cats.