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?

Author: Emma

Emma is a novelist, full-time mama, recovering academic, and former political staffer. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves her twins' hugs, her husband’s cooking, her cat’s whiskers, her dog’s tail, and Earl Grey tea.

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