I finished my Urban Fantasy novel a couple of months ago, and incorporated some beta reader comments, cut 8000 words, tweaked grammar. All the things you need to do to finish and finalize. Finished, finished, finished. Awesome, right? Now it sits as the query letter is being smoothed over. Comp titles are a bit flummoxing. I have some, then I reread the comp book, and I wonder if it is really as close to what my story is about as I think it is. All this second-guessing makes for writing frustration.
So I started another book.
I even outlined it first. In a couple of past posts, I yammered about outlining, and being a pantser, not a plotter, before I realized why yes, I actually do outline my work. I just wasn’t calling it an outline. I wrote 8 pages of ‘This happened, then this, then the character did this, and oh, yeah, this is how it all turned out.’ 8 pages of outline. Then I wrote some scenes that came to mind after reading the outline and taking a deep breath, I opened Scrivener.
Scrivener is a word processing program and outliner. I let it intimidate me before, writing chapters in Word then dropping them in the program. It’s got a bit of a learning curve. This time, I read tutorials and played around a bit. Then I started. I used the Index card part to plug my 8-page outline into digestible chunks. It forced me to sum up what was going on, chapter by chapter. The good thing about the cards is I can move them around. My brain while reading continuous pages of text insists that’s how it should be, linear, like a novel.
Virtual 3×5 Cards
Index cards with summaries helped me see the overall flow of the novel much more easily. I sized it to nine cards on a page, out of 34 chapters, so I could take things in at a glance. (So this was storyboarding? I could work with this.) I can rearrange index cards, but figuring out how to add a blank one took me a bit. Learning curve. I did like color coding each chapter so I know whose Point of View it’s in. I found out the bad guy needs more time on the page.
Each time I opened Scrivener, I wanted to flee back to Word, but I resisted the impulse. I do a lot of my writing in Google Docs and Word because they are familiar. How many times do we stick with the familiar instead of branching out? I promised myself I’d try writing chapters in Scrivener. I do like the ability to have nothing but a big, blank page showing on the screen. (For some reason, Word’s ribbon feature draws my eye. It has toys. My downfall.)The blank page has never intimidated me. I just jump in and worry about organization later. Pantser instincts never die.
Is my outline finished? Urm, no. Every time I read it, I tighten it up, add things in, and try to pinpoint conflict. Little by little, I become more comfortable with outlining, and it’s even helped me on the previous Urban Fantasy query letter. The only drawback I see to this is carrying all those characters from multiple books in my head. I guess as long as no fistfights break out, I’ll be able to finish one book and write the other. Writers out there, have you tried a new process? How did it go? What’s your outlining method?
Links to Past Posts on Writing:
Link to Scrivener
Links to outlining methods:
Finding the Novel Outlining Process That Works for You
7 Ways to Write a Plot Outline
4 thoughts on “Finished and Starting Again”
One thing I totally learned to do was to include a timeline, including names, birthdays, relationships to one another, important days… I don’t know how many times I had to check and recheck the manuscript for these details before I learned to do that. Haven’t done a complete outline yet, but I don’t count it out. Carry on!!
Morgan – I made an Excel spreadsheet with physical descriptions, location descriptions, and a list of who was in what scene. Timeline is something I didn’t do! I kind of write in linear mode, so it didn’t occur to me. I deny outlining, but my 8 pages of This Happens has grown to 10 right now…
I read this with interest even though I’m not a novelist. The ideas about organization and trying something new apply to anyone trying to write a book of any kind, so now I’m thinking about where and why I have resistance to some kinds of projects or to doing more than one project at once. I really resist that second one, although I’ll likely never be convinced that limiting myself to only one project at a time isn’t a good thing. Have you used Scrivener for any poetry projects? And congrats on that completed novel!
Kath – I do so many projects at once because they are all separate things in my mind. And if my poetry mojo isn’t working, my novel writing mojo is. I tried using Scrivener for poetry, I didn’t really like it. But now that I have a firmer grasp of how to format things, I may try it again. Not sure you can fiddle as much as you can in Word.
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