Follow the Outline?

It’s been a while since I posted something more or less exclusively about writing. I suppose that’s kind of fitting, since it took me a while to realize something about my current project relating to the title.

I’ll bet you can guess what that is.

This project, titled Queen’s Will has been such a departure from other projects. First, I interrupted it for about 6 months to start, then complete a novella. That’s not something I would have even considered before, but when opportunity comes knocking, you answer.

So there was that.

Then, as I tried to get back into it, I thought I’d be able to pick it up right where I left off.

That didn’t work out so well.

I decided that I needed to do a read-through, which produced mixed results. Part of that was my Editor brain kicked in, hard, and I gave it its head.

So where does the outline come into play?

Typically, and I fully accept that each project is going to be different from the ones before, I do a bare bones outline. This is just me telling myself the story. There’s a lot of internal shorthand and brief mentions of things that would normally stick in my memory during the drafting process.

Enter the six-month shelving of the project.

Much like a note written to yourself in the middle of the night, in the morning, said note, which made perfect sense at 3 AM…made less sense.

One other thing I’ve noticed about myself, subconsciously, I will recognize when something doesn’t make sense, and I will gradually put on the mental brakes. Drafting becomes increasingly harder and harder until my conscious mind, wondering why things have gotten so damned hard, comes to realize that something isn’t working.

When that happens (and I am actively working to shorten the amount of time it takes for me to recognize that point) I go back to the outline.

This time, I looked over the outline and I spotted several points where my mental shorthand was the equivalent of “Fix it in Post.”

But so much time had passed, I didn’t have any idea of what I’d had in mind to “Fix it” with.

So I started over.

Not completely, but almost. I created a new project file in Scrivener and I started over, first rebuilding the outline.

That Bare Bones outline turned into a 29 page document.

At this point, I confess, I probably should have just started over whole cloth, but there was good stuff in the old version. So I did a lot of copy and pasting and, somewhere along the way, I did manage to pick up where I’d left off, but not in a good way. I’d gone off script and fell back into what I was doing before.

Again, I recently (and slowly) came to the realization that what I was doing was trying to drive a square peg through a round hole.

Again, I went back to the outline, and I read it through, and it still made sense, start to finish.

So this project has, for me, very little wiggle room. Strangely, I don’t find that odd at all. I think that Past Me might have balked at the idea. Indeed, when I printed out the Outline, so I could have it (kinda) side by side, I saw that I’d added (in huge, bold, italicized letters no less) “You are Not locked into Any of this!”

As I go through the project, with the outline right next to me, that page – that reminder – is long gone.

I kinda see that now as Past Me resisting what might turn out to be a bit of growth on my part. It’s hard to tell. Again, every project is different. Maybe this will be an anomaly and I’ll go back to a skeletal structure, or maybe I’ll continue on with a more robust outline. I am noticing that I’ve still got plenty of room to explore, despite there being a definite “You need to get to point C, then you can go to point D, etc.

I still consider myself a hybrid writer. It might just be that I’ve slid closer to the plotter side of the “Plotter-Pantser” scale on this project.

Maybe the next project will see me slide more toward the plotter side of the scale, maybe it’ll take me in the opposite direction.

Only one way to find out.

Thanks for reading. Be safe out there. Be Excellent to Each other – and yourself.

I’ll see you on Thursday.

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