Working through my outline has been an experience. I chose not to outline at the beginning, so I didn’t have an overview of the project. I spent the past two weeks writing the outline for the first draft of the book, the perks of which are that I don’t have to adjust any previous work to match what I have now, and I was able to write the first draft completely free of mental restriction. Pulling the outline together wasn’t easy though, and this week’s post as about the struggles I encountered and the overall benefits of the work done.
One problem I had was my editing mindset. When I started outlining, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and outline each chapter as I edited. This worked well, up until chapter 15, which is a significant emotional beat in the narrative. I wasn’t satisfied with the chapter and strongly considered rewriting it, but doing that would affect the rest of my story on ways I couldn’t fully grasp without a full view of the story. I couldn’t change this scene without understanding how it interlocked with everything that came after it. So I decided to finish the outline and correct the book from there. Despite making this decision, my mindset hadn’t changed. In every chapter I worked through, I felt compelled to edit it, despite not knowing if it would appear in the final draft of the book. I didn’t want to waste time, but it was easy to get caught up in the details without realizing. I had to force myself to finish the outline without editing, but that brought a different problem with it.
After Chapter 15, things become more emotionally dense. Charlie’s depression takes a turn for the worst, and all of the characters feel its effects. This is good from a writer’s standpoint but unfortunate for someone trying to write an outline. I would get caught up in the emotions of the chapter rather than focusing on the task at hand, and that slowed my progress dramatically.
In the end, I decided to skim over the emotions as much as possible, focusing solely on the events taking place. Now that it’s finished, I have access to a bird’s eye view of the repetition, symbolism, and scenes that should be altered to improve the narrative flow. I realized that at the end of the book, characters begin having multiple dense conversations that could be distilled into smaller ones to make them more digestible and enhance the themes. I also realized that the symbolism in the novel is very lop-sided towards the end of the book, rather than being evenly dispersed throughout, which would make the work more poignant and cohesive. With access to an outline, I can work on long-term planning, as well as recognize the ideas and emotions that are already in play in the current draft of the book.
Outlines are hard for me because I find them creatively inhibiting. Drafting an outline of a completed book has complications, but with it done, I will be able to manage my time and tasks more efficiently overall, which will alleviate the pressure of running out of time. It will also give me a tangible grasp on what needs to be changed, instead of just a mental image that could potentially be forgotten.
Thank you for your continuous support and encouragement. My journey is better for your presence.
Project Status: Editing is on hold as I rework the story with a paper version of my outline. Beta readers are also in play, helping me to discover what does and doesn’t work from a narrative standpoint. Thank you Beta Readers for everything.