Plan, Plan, Plan

I’ve been traveling and dissertation writing and haven’t worked on fiction in a week. But I have been reading K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel and I think I know why I tend to hit 20,000 words and then have the well run dry.

When I’m thinking about a new project, I do commit some notes to the page. Usually this plan is less than one page single-spaced. It identifies the characters then briefly summarizes the plot. I generally have some ideas for major scenes: how the heroine/hero meet; the first kiss; maybe a subplot. There’s a lot of unanswered questions. A lot of “and then something happens and they fight” or “somehow, that subplot that I haven’t defined resolves the conflict.” It’s not a plan at all, really, it’s a sketch. And I’ve discovered that I sketch in 20,000 – 30,000 word chunks.

What I need to do is not to let myself jump into the writing until I can write a fuller sketch — something more like a plan or an outline — so that all the writing can be as good as the first two frenzied weeks tend to be. I feel like I could write a novel in about 6 weeks, but only if I have a solid detailed plan.

To focus on the good for a minute, I’ve written 40,000+ words in the past month, plus revisions for Together is Enough and dissertation reading/writing. It’s not enough to “win” NaNoWriMo, but it’s much more than I could produce when I started writing fiction last November. I still like both projects and want to continue working on them. But I think I need to pause and work through an outline or plan before I can finish drafting.

What are some of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer? How are you approaching them?

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