Novel Writing: Month 9, Chapter 9 – Does Having An Outline Help?

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BAM!!! Another month done!

If you remember from last month’s blog post, my goal for September was to write a little in my novel every day. And now, you’re probably wondering if I accomplished this goal? Well…

Yes! And…no.

I started off really well. September 1st was Labor Day and filled with family fun so it was ten at night and my bed time before I had a moment to really sit down and write. And at that point I realized I didn’t even have my laptop at home so what was I to do? Problem-solving Kaitlyn decided to write the first few paragraphs in Notes on my iPhone. Not the most convenient means of writing a novel, but if J.K. Rowling can write Harry Potter on napkins on a train then I can write my novel on my iPhone before bed.

Fortunately, the next week or so of writing was on my computer and not on my iPhone so it went a little more smoothly, and I was able to write pages rather than just paragraphs.   However, I noticed that each day it felt more like I was writing to feel like I had accomplished my goal rather than to get through a certain portion of my chapter outline.

Normally, before I start writing a chapter I take the time to make a bullet pointed outline of the plot to help keep me organized and on task (plot-wise) throughout the month. Sometimes I’m extremely specific, writing paragraphs that more or less are translated verbatim into the final document during the month. Other times I’m much more vague and leave myself basic notes about what kinds of action or discussions I want to have in the chapter but without true guidance as to how I’m going to accomplish that quite yet. These outlines are very important to me. Usually they’re longer than what I actually find I can write in a month because I find that one particular section needed more fleshing out in the novel than when I initially conceived the idea in the outline. That’s when I break the outline in half or cut off the last quarter to use in the next chapter. When I have done that, I have found it actually helps me keep a continuation from chapter to chapter.

This particular month of “writing every day” though, I found that my outline was much slower going even though I was writing every day. In previous months my writing goals would be to get through a certain section of my outline every time I wrote whereas this time it became about just the act of writing every day. I think because of this I have some more creatively inspired sections in this chapter, but it definitely caused a backlog in my writing queue.

I noticed this disconcerting phenomenon about halfway through the month as I realized I still wasn’t halfway through my outline even though I had been writing every day. And then the worst thing for productivity happened—I went on vacation.

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I had these grand plans of writing every day while at the beach, and how I would be more focused and creative because I wouldn’t have the stresses of work hanging over my head, and that I would be stuck in the car for six hours there and back so if nothing else surely I would be able to write then! Well, that didn’t happen.

I slept for most of the traveling. It’s not really that surprising. I was EXHAUSTED. I definitely needed the sleep. And then once I was at the beach, who wants to pull out their laptop and start writing? Even if it’s fun writing? Who even wants to write on their iPhone using that tiny little keyboard? The free time I did have was when I was out lounging by the ocean, but I couldn’t bring my computer out there! It would be ruined by sand and salt and ocean water. Eugh!

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So the week of my vacation was a bust. But I thought, “Well I still have a week and a half left after I get back! I can finish it then!” Fortunately, I did. But again, I had to cut the chapter outline at about the two-thirds mark which in this particular case actually made sense because I realized I was trying to stuff WAY too much information and action into one chapter. Breaking it up into two chapters made so much more sense. However, if I had perhaps kept my original pace and not gotten distracted by “writing words” rather than “writing content,” I probably would have gotten through a chapter and half at least.

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I would say this month is still a success though. I really want to write every day in October even though a conference for work will make writing every day during the first five days of October pretty difficult. But maybe I should just look at it as a challenge. Let’s write every day even though I’ll probably be working twenty hour days and doing significant amounts of air travel and be exhausted in my spare time!

On a plot note, I’m excited about where I am getting to in my novel now. While I keep having ideas about things I’d like to go back and change and add in order to make the novel better, the part of the novel I’m starting to write now really gets into some adventure so I want to make it a worthwhile ride for myself and my potential readers. I think that’s part of why it’s more difficult to write now than it was before. This part of the novel really takes some forethought and finesse. I can’t just wait until the last week of the month and slap something together. For this reason, I think deciding to make writing every day a goal will benefit me in the coming months.

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