Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ding Ding Ding...It is Time...It Is Time for an Outline!

Ah July! It's a love/hate thing. I love it because it's my birth month, I have off of work for the 4th and there's always mowers humming and charcoal burning somewhere. That crap gets me all sentimental and nostalgic...picnics by the creek with my elders when I was a kid, Creedence crackling over the radio, etc...

Then there's the HATE part. Yes, it's in caps on purpose. July's ugly side means swamp-ass turned up to 11 and a sticky hotness that makes breathing seem like I'm trying to suck in air through a tube filled with putrid, moist gym socks. It means gnats, mosquitoes and having the kids complain about getting to bed while it's still light out. Goodbye comfortably-drinking-coffee-on-the-deck-in-the-early-morn. Hello sunburn and heatstroke!

By midsummer, I always yearn for Fall. This year is no different, though I do have an additional reason to be apprehensive of July and giddy for next season: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

NaNoWriMo is basically this: Write a 50,000 novel in one month. You have from November 1st to 11:59:59pm on November 30th to do it...definitely no small feat. I've never participated in it before, and I am really excited to give it a shot. Should I "win" and surpass 49,999 words, I get, above all, bragging rights. I believe they also give out a certificate and web badge that marks the accomplishment.

Now, how the hell am I supposed to write so much in so little time when I've been working on my first novel, "The Sorcerer's Paragon" for over a year? I am floating about halfway through its second draft. Some days I feel like I'm equipped with a paddle and get through quite a bit. Other days, I'm treading water with merely my cupped, wrinkled hands. What I need for NaNoWriMo is a freakin' outboard motor!

Well, I think I found said motor. It has a name, and that name is outlining. This is where my new apprehension of July comes from. Many moons ago, I slated July to be the month (come hell or high water) that I would gently push my WIPs to the side and squeeze in outlining for book two in preparation for NaNoWriMo...and here we are. Time to figure out a way to get this outline junk out of the way.

Mind you that outlining is, in a way, new to me. I wrote "The Sorcerer's Paragon" from the seat of my pants. I took an intriguing idea and set it free to sodomize MS Word to its heart's content. My role was to just hang on for the ride. This led to an experience that was fun as hell to write, but I'm paying for it now. The story has grown to something a bit more complex than I originally anticipated, and I'm pretty sure that outlining my ideas prior to starting the first draft would have helped tremendously.

I've researched lots of different outline methods, tried a few and finally settled on the snowflake method. To quote the famous Al Bundy, I'm going to "Throw it in the oven and see if it bakes", "Run it up the flagpole and see if it waves"..."Put it in bed with Madonna and see if she sleeps with it."

I'm not going to go into too much detail, but in a nutshell, you start with a one sentence summary of your story and then expand it to a paragraph. You do the same with your main characters. Then you just keep expanding...building it out a little at a time until it evolves into the skeleton of your story. Supposedly it allows you to find and fix flaws before you even begin your first draft, and that makes sense to me. Many times, I found myself sifting through the first draft of "The Sorcerer's Paragon" pissed off at how the chapters refused to line up. A lot of rewrites and rethinking was necessary to get the flow I wanted. I'm still going through that process. If outlining can help me there...I'm in!

The panser side of my brain is a bit upset at me. It yells out, "I call B.S.! You enjoy the surprises hidden in every carriage return! Abort! Abort!"

I scream back, thwarting its logic, "I'm still finding surprises as I flesh out the outline! Shut up, damn you!" Then I awkwardly drop my head as people begin to stare.

As Chuck Wendig says, "To me this is the same dilemma of whether or not you want to know the sex of your baby before it’s born — to me, it’s still a surprise if I learn that fact at 20 weeks and that gives me another 20 weeks to figure out what kind of clothes to buy the little critter."

If you want to read more about the snowflake method, here is it is broken down in steps. I may very well get halfway through it and find it useless, but at the moment I'm digging it. Whatever happens, I'll be sure to let you know.

The hope is that my outline for book two will be done by early to mid August. Then I can concentrate on completing the second and subsequent drafts of book one. When November hits...I'll be ready! I'll be sitting on my deck, watching the rust-colored leaves dance their way down to the frosty ground as my cup 'o Joe breathes steamy breaths into the chilled morning air.

Thanks for reading!

-- Tim

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic write-up and thank you for introducing me to the "Snowflake" method. I'm a hyper-planner (except when it comes to NaNoWriMo, because I'm a judgy purist), and this sounds like a far more effective method for me in the long-run. Thank you!