Mapping Out The First Draft

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I’m a detail-oriented person and I feel scattered if I don’t have some kind of step-by-step plan in place, particularly when I’m writing fiction. These character flaws of mine drive me crazy sometimes, but I’m slowly coming around to accepting them.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, then you know I’m working on the first draft of a novel. Up to this point, I’ve had some basic ideas of what and who my story is about. I’ve also managed to write multiple scenes with a current word count tally somewhere around the 7K mark. However, I’ve noticed that I’m just kind of meandering through with the scenes I’ve written. They aren’t really going anywhere, so I’ve decided to step back and figure out the details.

Recently, I read this article by Jennifer Haupt about keeping your novel on track with a process journal, something I already do for almost every writing project. One thing she talks about is keeping track of the basics of your character’s personality traits and how the protagonist’s personality and personal growth should remain consistent throughout the story.  This isn’t something I always think about when I’m writing my scenes, so I end up with a lot of rambling nonsense that ends up going nowhere.

Over the weekend, I started a more detailed outline, beginning with the basic information to figure out more about my protagonist. First I asked myself the following questions:

  • Who is my protagonist at the beginning of the story?
  • What is her desire?
  • What is the initial plan?
  • What critical weakness makes the plan fall apart?
  • What is the “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story?

By asking those questions, I figured out the following:

  1. My protagonist lacks self-worth, is unwilling to face her past, blames herself for her mother’s death, harbors secrets, is career-focused, and believes she does not deserve happiness. In other words, she’s a mess.
  2. Her desire at the beginning of the story is to revive her career ASAP.
  3. Her initial plan is to find a job and start her life over far away from the hometown she was forced to return to after her fiance dumped her.
  4. Two main things cause her plan to fall apart and they are driven by her feelings of guilt: First, she finds out the family business is in trouble. Secondly, she begins to form a bond with her old flame’s young son.
  5. The “super power” that becomes stronger toward the middle of the story is the protagonist begins to find her purpose in life and slowly builds up her self-worth.

This is the kind of information that will help drive the story. I’ve put all of these details at the beginning of my outline for easy reference. The next thing I did was made a list of the major story events for Acts I, II, and III to help me figure out the structure of the story.  The next step in my process will be to create a scene-by-scene outline centered around those major plot points.

When it comes to writing, I’m not a pantser. I need to have a road map. I know there will be detours taken along the way, but having a basic knowledge of how to get from point A to point B will keep me on track and hopefully make getting through this first draft a much smoother process in the end.

 

How To Write A Novel-Part 3: The Outline

PlannersgonnaPlan

I’m a planner. My house is littered with five million notebooks filled with lists and snippets of ideas – weekly menus, shopping lists, to do lists, story ideas. I jot things down as a way to organize my thoughts, as well as to help guide me in a particular direction.

When it comes to writing stories, I’m a person who prefers to know where the story is going before I begin writing.

There are plenty of ways to go about outlining a novel. If you’re a minimalist, a simple one-page bullet list of key scenes might be enough to get you started. There are some writers who create complex, detail-oriented outlines that are fifty or more pages long. Personally, I’m looking for an outlining method somewhere in between. It’s very easy for me to linger far too long in the planning stages of a story. I think it’s just my way of avoiding the inevitable – writing the draft.

Here are a few articles I’ve found explaining different ways you can outline your next novel:

For me, the outlining process is a way of fleshing out the original idea and figuring out if I can form that idea into a full-fledged story. I think it’s where I’m the most creative in the whole writing process because the ideas just seem to continually flow.

Knowing ahead of time where the story is going gives me a much needed boost of confidence that moves me from the plotting phase to writing that first draft.