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.

 

Camp NaNoWriMo: Day 22

Camp NaNoWriMo

It’s day 22 in the writing process and I feel like I haven’t gotten a whole lot done.  I’ve put in just under 17 hours so far. In order to reach my goal, I will have to put in 33 hours of work towards my novel over the next nine days.

That is not going to happen.

I’m okay with that, though. I’ve been working steadily on this project, some days longer than others, and I’ve accomplished one important thing: A drive to get the story down on paper.  It’s fresh in my mind ALL the time. Ideas are percolating in my brain and I look forward to every minute that I can devote to writing this story.

Another interesting development is that the original story that I planned is changing. What was going to be a true romance novel, one where the focus is entirely on the hero and heroine’s developing relationship, is no longer the case. I’m more interested in the “heroine’s” story. There will be romance, but that romance is no longer the sole focus of her story, just another part of her journey.

I’m not one of those people who can sit down and just bang out a story. The process is a slow-moving one for me that usually involves plotting for a bit, writing some scenes then realizing that’s not the direction I want to go, then starting all over again. It’s a frustrating way to write, but I’m confident that it will all work itself out in the end.

Book Review: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty

Three WishesI’m not sure what took me so long to discover Liane Moriarty, but I’m glad I did. This was a really entertaining book and so easy to read. Before I go into my thoughts on this book, here’s the Good Reads blurb:

Australian triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle are about to turn thirty-three and one is pregnant, one has just had her life turned upside down, and one is only just keeping hers from skidding off the fast lane. Meanwhile, their divorced parents have been behaving very oddly indeed.

In this family comedy by Liane Moriarty, we follow the three Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year — as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio.

Actually, these triplets are about to turn thirty-four, not thirty-three. The book begins with the sisters at a restaurant having a great time celebrating their thirty-fourth birthday when in the blink of an eye things go downhill fast. An argument erupts and one of the sisters ends up with a fork stuck in her pregnant belly.

That scene is what made me turn the page to find out more.

From there, the story backtracks. It follows each sister over the course of a year and reveals the events that lead up to the explosive birthday celebration. Each sister has their own personal issues to deal with ranging from infidelity, miscarriage, the ups and downs of motherhood, panic attacks, career, and surprise pregnancy, as well as their crazy parents.

The Kettle triplets have their own distinct personalities. Cat is sarcastic and puts on a tough demeanor. Lyn is organized and in control. Gemma comes across as a ditz who is just floating through life. I have to say, Gemma was definitely my favorite sister. Like most siblings, they don’t always get along with one another, and there is a level of dysfunction within this family which adds to the humor of the book. As the story unfolds, each sister goes through their own personal crisis, forcing you to turn the page to see what happens next. These characters are easy to relate to and their every day struggles are realistic.

One thing I enjoyed throughout the book was the short vignettes before each chapter. These stories are told by complete strangers who are recollecting a time in their past when they’ve come across the triplets. Each story gives a little bit of insight into the sisters and their family. I thought this was a clever way of sharing a bit of back story about the Kettle family.

I gave this book four stars because I really enjoyed it, and I will definitely be reading more of Liane Moriarty’s books in the future.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?