When last we left off, I had just finished the outline to a new novel. I’d spent the first five days of the WriteChain Challenge finishing my previous project, then immediately spent eleven days working on and perfecting the outline for my next project.
This is day 64, about fifty days later. And my how I’ve grown.
Okay, well, I wouldn’t say I’ve grown exactly. In fact, I’ve even lost some weight (if we’re taking “growing” in a literal sense). What I’m saying is, I’ve learned some things.
The First Couple Weeks
At first, this challenge was a bit exciting. It was a reason to write every day. I know that if you want to be a writer you should want to write and all that, but let’s be serious: even fun writing is hard work. The simple act of sitting in a chair and shutting out reality while you put words to paper is an exhausting idea. The reward is the result. But it takes work to get there.
So the WriteChain Challenge was a way to get me to forget all that and just do it. All I had to tell myself was, “It’s just thirty minutes.” The only way I could see myself having a hard time carving out thirty minutes to write is if I were camping. And even then I’d probably just export a manuscript to my Kindle and write notes for editing it later.
And within five days, I had a completed manuscript. Disclaimer: I was already about 80,000 words into that story already when I started this challenge. But several of those days, I wrote for an hour or more.
Then I set to quickly crafting the outline for my next project, a story I’ve had in the works for a while. And for more details, I talked about this in the previous post. No use repeating, right? The important part is that this challenge got me excited to write again.
Weeks Three to Six
Ah the beginnings of writing a story. What a magical process.
Except nope, that’s a bunch of crap. Beginning a story sucks. You think you have everything you need to write it and yet, hey, here’s all these things you didn’t consider.
But I had an outline, and I stuck with it, even when I realized that the story needed more. More story. More conflict. More things connecting this chapter to that chapter. Oh, and don’t get me started on the pacing.
Then I got to the end of Act One and realized it was too short. I ended up moving the end of Act One to a later chapter, and honestly it worked there, at first. I realized my outline was a bit more sparing than I’d suspected. Maybe eleven days isn’t enough time to write a fully fleshed-out outline.
By the end of week six, I came to a point where I had to decide whether or not I could keep going without fixing the outline. I mean, I messed up so bad early on that I forgot to even include characters in a scene’s outline. I had to figure that one out on the spot and I realized then that maybe I don’t have this whole Scene Structure thing down as well as I thought I did.
Weeks Seven to the Present
I ended up embracing the idea that you can’t fix what you don’t have. A bad draft can be improved, but it must be finished before it can even be bad. I have notes all over the place in the manuscript saying where I need more scenes with ideas of what could happen to bridge certain gaps or to fix the timeline, and I’ll have to wait until the first draft is done before I go and add all that in. For now I have to trust the outline.
And it was a good idea. I’m not done with the first draft yet, but the scenes in the latter third of the book just seem to speak to me more strongly. That and the characters are really coming into their own as I’m writing them. I’ve learned things about them I never would have expected.
Not only that, I’ve created characters along the way that I never expected to have a part in the story. They appeared on their own, with little influence from me, because they were the character I needed at the time. Now, I have characters that can go into earlier scenes to flesh out the narrative, to give me a good and not-manufactured way of injecting story where it’s most needed.
Now, even though I’m still running into problems, I’m learning, and I’m pushing on. I’ll know how to outline my next book (possibly the next book in this series) and I expect I’ll still learn from mistakes then. But they’ll be new mistakes, and not the same old ones.
— David T. Shank (@DavidTShank) May 24, 2016