I Am A Work-In-Progress

Keep working, Mr. Bee.

Miles run today: 10

Words written in my novel so far: 53,592

Times I have been wrong: 4.5

You may ask my husband and family: I am never wrong. Well, I mean… mostly never.

Memorable times in history when I have been mistaken:

1. “Pluto and Yugoslavia will always exist as they are today.”– Anne, circa 1987.

2. “I don’t get the big deal about the Information Superhighway. It isn’t going to affect my life in any major way.” –Anne, circa 1992.

3. “I am completely uninterested in sharing my life in a blog.” –Anne, circa 2009.

(The .5 is to encompass any slight oversight in my recollections.)

Please control your gasps, but a sea change occurred recently in my writing life, and I need to confess:

4. I was wrong about being a pantser. Plotting and outlining my novel might be a good idea.

I know. It’s huge.

Much has been made about the plotting vs. pantsing divide in the writing world: some writers prefer to construct detailed outlines of their novels, while other writers write “by the seat of their pants.”

I read an excellent blog post by a published author recently, though I can’t find it now to save my life. She said that she had many reservations about outlining… until she got very pressed for time: between caring for young children and rigid deadlines from publishers, something had to give.

She found that by taking a few minutes at the start of each writing session to write out, longhand, the gist of the next couple of chapters, she increased her word count by thousands of words. The result was dramatic and life-changing.

I was resistant to the outlining/plotting process. Like this author, I was afraid that specific, Roman-numeral, English-class-style outlines would stunt my writing, essentially locking me in a 10×10 cell wrapped in blank pages.

I’ve never been fond of formal outlines. They represent everything about school that I disliked, all rules-y and authoritative, judgmental and blocky.

But if you can find a way to make a chapter summary-style outline work for you, it just might change your life. I am finding, not that I’m writing wildly productive, 10,000 word sessions, but that the chapters I am writing have more of a focus.

And if you struggle with maintaining tension and keeping conflict alive in your writing, as I do, a scene/chapter loose outline may help you hone in on the nugget that each chapter needs to push your story forward.

I am fortunate to be in an excellent critique group, and if you have critiqued other writers’ work as I have, you will find that sussing out lack of tension in other writers’ work is SO EASY. Why, how simple it is to see what someone else is lacking! You, there–your story is getting dull! Your characters are talking about nothing that helps the story move forward! I just read a chapter that didn’t even need to be in your novel!

But it’s not so easy to see in your own work. At least not during the initital writing process.

You can become so enamoured of your characters, of the setting, of your snappy dialogue, that you forget the very essence of why you are writing: to make the reader want to find out what happens next!

I’m still muddling through on my WIP. I am no speed writer or novel goddess. I have not yet placed in the time trials of Olympic Novel Writing. I, myself, am a Work-In-Progress.

But I’d love to hear back from you about what you have changed about your writing process. What were you wrong about? What has made your job as a novelist easier? What nugget of wisdom can you pass along to make the world a better place?

Share the Love: Buy a Book, Read a Blog

We had friends over last night to enjoy my husband’s cool fire pit. S’mores!

Words written in my novel so far: 52,842

Miles run today: 4.5

Miles run in pouring rain in last three days: 12.5 (ick)

My sister and I used to visit my grandparents every summer for a week. They tried to convince us that one day we would love tomatoes (I do!) and cantaloupe (I don’t!), and we would play badminton and mini-golf and go shopping for school clothes. There were long afternoons of reading my favorite books (my kids still ask me, “You read for how many hours???”) and my grandmother playing the piano so we could sing songs from musicals.

I would come home singing, “Oklahoma!” and “If Ever I Would Leave You” from Camelot. And especially, “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. We sang them lots and lots of times.

My mom would say things like, “If I have to hear another Rodgers & Hammerstein song, I’m going to pull my hair out!” But she secretly loved it, I’m sure.

Because I’m behind on linking to some of my favorite bloggy people out there, I thought I would use this space today to share some love, some of my favorite things, if you will. If you are in a sharing, expansive kind of mood today, too, amble on over to these folks’ blogs (or websites). You’ll be glad you did.

1. You can check out Carrie Rubin’s blog but also her NEW NOVEL, The Seneca Scourge! I am trying to get this medical thriller on my daughter’s Kindle, because I, the biggest reader in the family, am the only one who doesn’t have an e-reader. Buy her book! Carrie is a smart, sassy writer, and I can’t wait to read her published work!

2. My friend and fellow North Carolina writer, Barbara Claypole-White, has a new novel out, too… The Unfinished Garden. She is a British ex-pat who writes “love stories about damaged people.” Barbara is an excellent writer, and I loved the story about a woman who was grieving her husband’s death and a man who was struggling with OCD. They meet, and well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens. It’s a transatlantic love affair with some gardening, cute British phrases and passion thrown in there. Barbara also blogs at Book Pregnant, a great resource for newly published writers. Buy her book!

3. I just ordered Sarah Gives Thanks from Amazon. Two cool blogger pals, Mike Allegra and David C. Gardner, created this book about the woman who not only helped Thanksgiving become a national holiday but apparently made all of us feminists who came later look like slackers. Buy their book!

4. I am having trouble putting down Shadow of Night, the second book in the A Discovery of Witches trilogy. I have no personal connection to Deborah Harkness, but I kind of wish I did. I mean, vampires and witches, the Bodleian library and time travel? Reading doesn’t get any better than that. And I’m a little annoyed that my family requires dinner. I mean, I have reading to do here, people!

5. Thank you to The Wanderlust Gene (travel, excellent photographs), J-Bo (hilarious anecdotes about life at age 26) and Ravena Guron (teenagers who write in England apparently are wiser than I was) for mentioning me on their blogs recently. I don’t remember if I’ve thanked them properly, so help me thank them by visiting their wonderful blogs.

If I’ve forgotten someone, I apologize! There are some great blogs out there.

6. Fall. I’m a big summer person, but I’m feeling giddy about pulling out my boots soon. And wearing jackets. And watching the leaves change. Are you?