I’ve been reading K M Weiland books on outlining lately and decided to give it a try. Previously, I’ve used mind-mapping, that is putting the name of the book in the middle of a page, then throwing out everything on the page I know about the subject, like a mad brachiate tree-like structure. It got all the concepts onto one page, but not in a linear fashion.
This new strategy asks questions for a non-fiction book like
What is this book about
Who is the book written for (primary and secondary audiences)
What will they learn from the book
What are the steps along the way?
Getting these questions answered snapped the outline into place and had me writing 5,000 words in a single day. It wasn’t a detailed outline, but the structure gave me a framework to put the things I wanted to communicate into a good order. Moved it right along.
For fiction, on the other hand, I needed to work out
Elevator speech about the book – one sentence
What is the inciting event (what puts events into motion)
What is the main story theme?
What happens at the 25%, 50% (climax), 75% and ending of the book
In each of the secitons above, what are the main scenes. What happens in each one?
And then I figure out what each character has to learn. How they grow. What are their obstacles? Then I put those into the scenes. That really moved stuff around for me. It turned out my sub plot was actually my main plot, and what I thought was the main story of the book was actually part of the theme of the series. It had me discard about 10,000 words, keep 15,000 and re-write a much tighter plot. Yay.
In the last couple of days, I wrote 3500 words in the short story. Turned out I needed to start over, make a run at the overall story arc, and then incorporate things that I’d written before. We spent part of the afternoon at the Jewelbox Cafe today, some three hours, drinking a vanilla latte and some blood orange soda while working away at the story. Raven is working on the finishing stages of his next novel, so that was companionable.
Took a break after that for some ‘retail therapy’, and to do our daily walk. We’re both trying to hit two miles a day at present. Raven’s building up stamina and working the long muscles in his thighs to help out his heart function. I’m working on getting down my blood sugar readings. I strive to treat it (the type 1 diabetes) as ‘annoying but trivial’ which it obviously isn’t – trivial that is.
Hence the emphasis on exercise. It’s one of the few levers I have access to that lowers the blood sugar by a significant amount – up to 100 points for 20 minutes on the Glider – in addition to injections. That, and sleep. Around 7-8 hours on a regular basis makes a world of difference. But enough of that.
The short story is progressing quite nicely, acquiring some interesting beats, and the character dialog is coming along well.
More soon, when I have the first draft completed. It’s an uncertain world sometimes, and not always in ways one would expect.
Some of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year of writing and publishing are
The first (or fifteenth) draft is not ready. It needs an editor.
There are many editorial passes (characters, plot, sensory, place, continuity, tone, tightening up, grammar, spelling, formatting, design)
A beta reader is worth their weight in gold. They answer questions:
What was unbelievable, in context of the story
What was confusing?
What did you want to see more of?
What was cool?
Follow the directions of the publishing house – if you don’t, it will not ever get past the mail clerk. Margins, font, spacing, cover letter, synopsis (1000 words max – some prefer 350-500), elevator pitch (Firefly = A western, in space)
The content of a book needs to (mostly) be in the same voice (1st person, 3rd person – it’s rarer than you’d think that it switches at all)
Research is important – tell the reader where/when they are, get the facts right, especially historical facts need to be accurate)
The story needs to be marketable – it needs to fit an exact niche
Sensory information is important (taste, sound, smell, touch, sight)
Characters have motivation, feelings, internal voices. Use them.