Monday, January 7, 2013

My Current WIP

I won't get into specifics about my current WIP, but I will say that it is a deeply personal novel that I have been working on (and off) for the past 5 years. 

Back in 2008 I had finished a first-draft of this project via The 3-Day Novel Contest (check it out. It's a really great way to give yourself that kick in the butt if you need to finish something). Suffice to say, that first draft was complete shit. I mean, the most excruciating excrement you've ever read. At the time I thought it was this work of heart-breaking, genre-defying genius (resistance at its best, lol). Now, because of time and perspective I can see it for what it really was - a start. Completely self-indulgent, but a start nonetheless.

For the longest time that first draft sat in a drawer. It was always in the back of my mind, and once in a while I would bring it out of the drawer and fiddle around with it. Nothing serious though. I could never quite figure out where to go from there and at some point I even had plans to give up on it completely and chalk it up to a lost cause (the fact that telling this story terrifies me is another story in itself). 

But I couldn't let it go. At the same time, I couldn't seem to get it anywhere at all. 

Recently, before the holidays, I was complaining about this to my husband. We were driving in the car, and I explained to him (more like whined) that every time I tried to start again I would get into it for a bit, and then all of a sudden come up against a wall and come to a grinding halt. I just couldn't understand because I knew the story that I wanted to tell (or at least I thought I did) and I thought that was enough to guide me on the page when I sat down to write. Yet, it wasn't working. Then he said "why don't you try writing an outline?"Just like that. 

It was like a lightbulb flicked on in my head. Why don't I try an outline? What have I got to lose? "Pantsing" clearly isn't working. But don't outlines stifle creativity?

That last thought is a belief that I have carried with me for some time, and I'm not even sure how I came to that conclusion. Maybe because I've been a student for far too long and the thought of outlines has me subconsciously thinking of boring essays on Shakespeare and poetry. 

But, I decided to give outlining a try because I want the voice that says why not? to be louder than the voice that says don't even try

I purchased the e-book version of Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland to help get me started. 

I am an avid reader of her blog Wordplay, which gives advice to other writers. I read the book in one sitting and before I even finished I began diving head-first into the world of outlining. I'm still there, in fact. And, again, I don't want to say too much about my WIP (I'm a big believer that if you talk too much about something you're doing or want to do you will have a harder time finishing or starting it) but I will say this:

1) Outlining has not stifled my creativity AT ALL!! Just the opposite, it's given me "permission" to play and explore ideas that I never would have considered before when I sat down to write my pre-conceived idea of what the story should be. 

2) It's made me realize that the story I was trying to tell didn't want to be told the way I was trying to tell it. I was focusing so much on the story as it was told in that first draft. When I decided to give outlining a try, I realized that the first draft was actually the "before" and the story actually starts after that. This has been a HUGE game-changer for me. All of a sudden things are clicking, ideas are flowing and a real story has begun to emerge.

I'm still in that outlining phase right now, and I know I still have a tendency to be afraid to write something "wrong", but I'm trying to work through it and just do it. 

What do you think? Do you prefer "pantsing" or do you find the process of outlining helpful?


  1. Thanks so much for the shout out! I'm so glad you enjoyed Outlining and found it useful.

  2. No problem, thank you!! The book was so helpful :)