I hit a big planning milestone today: I started work on a detailed outline. I have never done this before writing a story of any length, and I have to say that doing it before writing a novel is a little intimidating. For one thing, it was hard getting started, and for another, I’m really worried that it’s setting me up for failure.
Let me explain a little bit. Just like everyone who writes without outlining first, I always start stories off really strong, then get somewhere between a few thousand and a few tens of thousands of words into them before suddenly realizing that I’m out of inspiration. Up until this point, I’ve kept kind of a mental outline of what I wanted to have happen in the back of my mind, but suddenly, that’s run out like a bad date, leaving me along to pay up the balance of my story.
Now, this hasn’t kept me from finishing stories in the past, but it has always led to a very observable decline in quality as the story has gone on. Worse, more than once I’ve come to a point where I realize that I’ve written myself into a corner, and I essentially have to do a “story reset” where I skip a chapter or two and start writing at a more agreeable point in the story. My second NaNoWriMo I skipped about three scenes that way. My most recent one, I skipped about 30,000 words.
So that’s why I’m trying this outline business in the first place. My hope is that, always knowing where I should be, I can keep those story resets from becoming necessary and keep my draft a more consistent quality. Like I said, that’s the hope.
My fear is this: that I will have set up and outlined and done character bibles for an awesome story that any agent would be just tickled pink to represent, and then find myself unable to write it. I don’t believe in writer’s block for the most part, but I am thoroughly familiar with being terrified to start something lest it suck. Your story is always so perfect and flawless in your mind, but for some weird reason it turns to crap when it lands on paper.
So this’ll be a new experience for me. I hope that the terror ends up being tempered somewhat when I what I write doesn’t turn out to suck completely, and it’s more than compensated for by having a first draft that ends up closely resembling the story in its final form. This, too, would be a brand new experience.
Regardless, even though I’m scared, I know that I have a secret weapon: during the month of November, probably because of the sheer writerly energy that courses throughout Portland, I have this ability to make my inner editor shut his freaking mouth, and then just start writing. NaNoWriMo, I love you, and I wish you lasted all year.