Oh, Outlining: A NtS Update

I finally have an update for Noveling through Summer! YES!

But it’s not at all on track with my goals listed on the Noveling through Summer Page.

On that page, I set this goal for May:

May: ten-scene outline of novel; character profiles for 3 main characters & 3 secondary characters; outline of how Ghost Society functions.

And then I didn’t do any of that in May. None of it. Zero progress. I thought about it a lot; I made a lot of notes on scraps of paper and on the back of my hand and in my phone; I talked about it endlessly to my writing partners, to Boyfriend, and to you. But I never did any of it. I could make a thousand excuses why, but excuses don’t really matter. Making excuses won’t retroactively get my work done.

Instead, I breathed a deep breath in June and I changed my June goals. I had hoped to be writing all this month, but I’m not a Pantster. I cannot write a book by the seat of my pants. I have to stop fighting that, and embrace it.

In May, while I was doing all that not writing, I took my fingers out of my ears and the blindfold off my eyes, and I faced up to a few things about how I need to write a book.

The first major thing I have to do is tediously plan the darn thing — I have to make extensive character outlines, I have to make a world outline, and I’m going to have to outline the chapters. I have to know every character’s arc, and the plot arc, and the general feel of sub-plots. I need to know when I’m revealing important background information in the story, and how that changes what came before and what comes after.

The second major thing I have to do is this:

I have to stop being so ashamed of being a Plotter and not a Pantster.

That is so important and crucial that I made it a heading and a bright color and centered it.  I have been shamed, I realize, about being a person who not only loves to plot but who needs to plot.  So last week I spent a lot of time reading Richelle Mead’s blog because I know her to be a Plotter, and happy day & a sign from the universe she has a series of blogs going right now about her writing process as she works on a new series. I have been taking inspiration from her process, as well as returning to a few craft books (mainly James Smith’s The Writer’s Little Helper), and I’ve been accepting that I am a Plotter.

Now, this may not come as the biggest surprise to you because I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’m a Plotter — but the comments on blogs or replies on Twitter inevitably include, “I could never plot so much, I’d be bored when I wrote!” or “I have to just write from my mind and go with the flow of the story!”  Which is GREAT, don’t get me wrong. Except then I start to think I’m boring, and I wonder what’s wrong with me that I don’t have epic stories just bursting forth from my head like Athena, fully-formed and magnificent.

I realize none of you claim your Pantster ways are fully-formed or magnificent, and I have had discussions with several of you wonderful Pansters about the laborious rewriting process that torments us all, but that doesn’t mean my own mind doesn’t completely exaggerate the situation. I am a writer, after all.

So this week, I got back to my basics, and I had a little self-time, and then I plotted. And oh my gosh, it was the most brilliant, mind-numbing, creative thing I’ve done in a year. Here is some evidence of how absolutely nuts I went in the last 48 hours:

Narrator’s Character Bio – 3,364 words

Support Character’s Bio – 1,414 words

Support Character’s Bio – 1,049 words

Society Outline – 915 words

The comparable thing here is actually word counts because of the note-taking program I store all this stuff in and weird font issues when sent to Word for measurement purposes.  I still have two more character bios to write (one will be closer to the top word count, the second will be around the 1k mark), and I’m sure the “Society Outline” will grow as I flesh those two bios out.

My goal now is to spend as much of June as I need to finish plotting. I am aiming to get those character bios complete before I leave on vacation next week, and when I return from vacation I’m going to start in on outlining the book.

It’s been a whirlwind of a writing week, but I’m feeling very good and very inspired. What can I say, I flourish with structure and flounder when left inside my own mind.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m half-pantser and half-plotter … I wish I was more of a plotter, because, if you know what you’re gonna write, then you don’t spend a lot of time staring at the screen wondering what to write. No time wasted 😉
    You’re doing great, Bailey, much better than me 😉

  2. This is the first time that I’ve actually plotted and I’m still not up to the skill level that you have while plotting. I’m so happy that you’ve figured so much of it out! #GS is going to be BRILLIANT.

    • Thank you for thinking so, and it has taken me years (very literally, YEARS) to even begin to understand this about my craft. I’ve always said “I’m a plotter!” but what that actually meant for me just smacked me straight in the face this week. And in another 5 years, it may be different, but crafts are always evolving.

  3. I’m glad I introduced you to Writer’s Little Helper Lol.
    There is nothing wrong with being a plotter, nor is there anything wrong with being a panster. Really, it’s all about what works and when you figure out what works for you (as you have) then the pieces can all fall together.
    What program are you using to store your notes?

    • Evernote. It’s most helpful. It’s syncs up between my computer, my tablet, my phone, and the web. I can organize notes into notebooks and notebooks in stacks. So basically, I have a notebook for each character, and chapters, and world things, and all of that is organized in one nice TGS bundle. I use it for basically everything — writing, work, school.

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