Stuck in the Middle… Again
I’ve reached the same point with my current WIP Dry Bones as I did with my previous WIP Dream Chaser. I made a basic outline and dove in feet first to write the first draft.Words flowed from my fingertips and filled page after page.I knew there were problems, but I told myself to push through the first draft, get it DONE, and then worry about the issues. Not long after I typed “The End”, I launched into revising.
As I revised the first draft, I saw opportunities not only to fix what was broken but also ways to make the story better. Characters changed radically. Some new ones were added. New subplots emerged. Entire chapters added or rewritten. I’m about halfway through the process and I’m so far from the original story that the second draft no longer resembles the first draft. It’s a better story in my estimation but I’m no sure where it’s going anymore. The original ending no longer works. I’ve got two characters who are basically redundant but I’m not sure who gets cut.
I feel like I’ve got a mess on my hands. With Dream Chaser, it was at this point that I decided to put the story down and revisit at some later point in the future. I already had the seed of the idea for Dry Bones and it was more exciting to me than the idea for Dream Chaser. Once again, I’ve got the seed for a new story, which I’m calling Rebellion, that I’m pretty excited about. But this time, I’m not ready to let go of Dry Bones. Something deep down says I need to finish this story.I really love what I’ve got developing here. I need some way to get it under control.
I shared my struggles with my Critique Group and one of the members asked me a pointed question.
Had I done an outline?
I’m a guy who LIKES outlines. You don’t have to sing their praises to me. Of course, I had done an outline. But his question got me thinking. The outline I did was for my FIRST draft. I had not done an outline for my SECOND draft because hey, I had already done one for my FIRST draft and since I was just revising, why would I need one for my SECOND draft. Of course, the story had deviated quite a bit from that FIRST draft so the real answer is no, I hadn’t done an outline for the story I’m now writing!
I knew the basics of outlining from my scholastics efforts, but I wanted to see if I could learn more and do a better job of outlining this time around. My friend, Tami Moore of tavenmoore.com had once done this amazing series on how she outlined. There were stickie notes and color codes and it was all so cool and creative. I tried it and got lost in the weeds. It didn’t work for me.
I decided to ask around and see if anyone had advice on outlining.
On Twitter, the ever helpful Angela Ackerman (@AngelaAckermanofwritershelpingwriters.net) recommended Kim Weiland’s (@KMWeilandofhelpingwritersbecomeauthors.com) Outlining Your Novel. I’m working my way through it but already I’ve already come to realize how cursory and surface my previous outlining process was. Using an outlining system like what Ms. Weiland describes would have helped me avoid some of the pitfalls I’m currently dealing with in this mess. There were questions I didn’t ask, let alone answer about my story, and my characters.
I’m going back to the beginning. I’m taking everything I’ve learned from both drafts and starting with a fresh outline and answering all the questions that Ms. Weilands proposes in her book.
Let’s see if I can’t untangle this mess.
Stressed Out Businessman Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net