Outlines – Do You or Don’t You

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Bacon Saves Everything

I finished my second National Novel Writing Month project last November.  My first one was in 2011 and no, I have no idea why I waited five years to write another 50,000 words in thirty measly days. I did, however, write a lot of other stuff in those five years.

That first NaNoWriMo novel is still sitting on my laptop, slightly edited but otherwise untouched as a stark reminder of everything to NOT DO when writing a novel.  And some reminders of what TO DO.

One thing you really want to do is work with an outline.

Outlines are good because they keep you on track. You might be writing a gun fight scene and suddenly you are going off on the layout of a cemetery for four pages and then ten pages after that a horse is duking it out with the town mayor (who is also a cat) and your plot line is buried right along with the bodies in the cemetery.

Oh, snap.

So, to keep yourself on the path of ‘write-eousness’ outlines help.

My outline for “Pendulum Rose” (my working title for my current WIP) started out simple and as I went I added more detail. Starting simple just so you have a gist of where you are headed is a huge time saver.

Example:

Chapter One

  • Jane wakes up in a field of marshmallow bunnies
  • She meets a strange man
    • he lives on a stick in a cookie field
    • he is directionally challenged
  • They walk down a crunchy road
  • They meet a large frog who wants to eat them
    • the frog is deeply insecure
    • strange man pocketed some cookies while taking to the frog

This is just an idea of how I outline (subject material is only an example).  Jotting down ideas works because, if you are anything like me, your memory isn’t what it used to be (we don’t need to go into the why of it) and you’re lying to yourself if you think you are going to remember what you wanted to remember.

Outlines are different than character sketches because outlines are a briefly listed detail where character sketches are detailed write-ups of the beings in your story. And yes, writing up a character sketch in an outline format is perfectly acceptable.

The only thing I write without an outline is flash fiction.  Flash fiction is such a short, compact story that writing an outline for it would take more time than the actual writing of the story.

There are a few ways you can outline.  One way is hardcore pencil and paper because hey, that’s just how you roll.  Two is Microsoft Word or another word processing program.  Three is Scrivener. I bought Scrivener last year because I got a discount through the NaNoWriMo website and while I am still getting a handle on it, the handles I am grasping firmly, are amazing.

Scrivener makes things easy because you can have multiple projects and inside each project you can have tabs, post-it notes and chapters.  To make sure you aren’t committing to something you might not like or need, you can download and try it free for thirty days. Check it out here.

However you outline, I am interested.  Do you use details?  Bare Bones?

Don’t forget to sign up for updates and if you need inspiration, check out my free writing prompts download here.

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NaNoWriMo – I Did It!

The fog has lifted from my brain as the end of November approaches.  Last night, I hit 50,000 words!  I exhaled for what seemed the first time since November 1st.  My family recognized me as I emerged from the piles of papers, mountains of coffee cups and countless energy bar wrappers.

I have to say, I freaked out when Thanksgiving approached.  My thought process went something like, “WHAT? THANKSGIVING?  But… I have to WRITE!”  Turns out Thanksgiving gave me just the break I needed.  I wrapped my WIP up yesterday at the Southampton, PA library with my NaNo pals.

We had a bit of a party!  We feasted on baked goods, ziti, fruit salad, lots and lots of cake and someone even brought a NaNoWriMo cake! I meant to take a picture of it, but forgot amidst the fun and food.  We did some word wars.  A word war is basically timed writing.  Alexis set the timer for thirty minutes and we all wrote non-stop.  When the bell chimed we would stop writing and then chirp off how many words we had written.  I am looking forward to reading a lot of the manuscripts that came out of my group alone.  I can only imagine how many wonderful ideas came from all the other groups around the world.

There are three days left!  I am wishing all my other NaNoWriMo pals and participants the best of luck.  YOU CAN DO IT!

NaNoWriMo and Quitting Smoking – WHAT?!

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year.  Nope, no one put a gun to my head and I am not certifiably insane (yet).   I have seen this NaNo thingy around for years… years! I was always too chicken poop to give it a shot.  Or maybe I didn’t have a story idea.

Anyway…. I have a story idea and it is a darn tooting good one.

To commemorate my Nano Insanity.. I quit smoking!  Ok, I did not quit smoking to cement NaNoWriMo.  I actually picked my quit date as November 1st two weeks before Halloween after much cajoling from my boyfriend.  On Halloween he said to me, “Tomorrow is the big da-ay!”

I looked at him completely confused.  “All Saints day?” I said, pitching my voice up in question mode.

“No, babe.  Remember?  You are quitting smoking tomorrow!”

“I am? Oh!  Right!  Yeah, I am,” I tried to sound as enthusiastic as possible.  I was right there along with a squirrel right before he gets smashed by a car.  At least the squirrels misery ends!

So Sunday, Halloween, October 31, 2011 was my last day of smoking.

Sunday, Halloween, blah blah blah was also my prep day to start NaNoWriMo on Monday, November 1st.  Monday November 1st would be my first official smoke-free day.  It would also be a day I had to write at least 1,667 words.

I have to say, it hasn’t been so bad.  I mean, yes, I have purchased a small fortune in gum.  I have consumed about 60 chocolate chip cookies in the last four and a half days along with countless Twix Bars and Snickers.  I am drinking the equivalent of a small creek of fresh spring water each day.

Some things I have noticed that are super smashingly smurfariffic!

a) I don’t stink!

b) I think a little clearer because I am not obsessed with nicotine!

c) I am a little grouchier (this is making my characters not so sissy-like in my WIP).

d) I am drinking way less coffee.

e) I already have extra cash! Weee! 😀

So if I seem a bit snippy at the write-in this weekend at Panera in Bensalem or we’re on Facebook and suddenly you get the feeling a seven horned monster with eighteen green, scaly fingers is typing, don’t be alarmed.  It’s just me.

Happy NaNoing (and ROW80ing!) 😉