My agent proposed turning three Antebellum books into one book (and eventually changing the name). Instead of charging in there and starting to cut and edit, I decided to do a complete outline of the new book.
One month later, I was still floundering.
Then, my good friend sjmaas insisted I set a deadline to complete the outline, and stick to it (she did hers in two full days *shake fist*). Will I make the deadline? Probably not. Did I learn some valuable lessons? Hell yeah.
Lesson 1: Don’t stop reading!
Recently I realized that I’d pretty much quit reading, period. I hadn’t even realized that I’d fallen off the reading wagon until I went to a family reunion in New York and used my Nook on the plane (I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). At first the experience was crazy strange. I hadn’t read for pleasure in so long that I was having a hard time immersing myself in another world. I was hyper-conscious of the words on the page, like I was studying individual brushstrokes instead of seeing the whole painting.
That showed me how out of it I was.
Since then I’ve returned to the old, good habits: reading whenever I have a spare second. Thankfully I was gifted with a Nook earlier this year, and I haul it everywhere with me. I even read in the car at stoplights. (Right now I”m 1/4 way through Stephen King’s It. Reading It has been on my ‘Life To Do’ list for a while, so I’m thrilled).
Reading fiction is the surest way I know to jump-start my internal creativity. I can’t believe I ever stopped.
Lesson 2: Don’t stop brainstorming with CP’s!
I entered into the Outlining process alone, and for some reason I thought I had to keep at it alone. I forgot to reach out to my writer friend and CP’s to brainstorm and bounce ideas off them. Finally I broke down one night and asked my friend katzhang if I could discuss an idea with her… that led to another breakthrough in my story re-write, and showed me that I was seriously doing myself a disfavor by trying to come up with ideas all on my lonesome.
Lesson 3: Scribbling is helpful! For some reason I thought that Outlining as an activity was restricted to coming up with plot points and writing them down. This in itself has proven to be very difficult, and I found it was a lot easier to figure out how events would tie together if I scribbled down really, REALLY rough versions of scenes.
Writing the story down as I’ll eventually have to for-real write it showed me the path of emotions in my characters and made coming up with the following even a hundred times easier. Now I keep a notebook with me by my laptop so I can start sketching out scenes and speeches, which get condensed down into just a few sentences in the outline, but those are really important sentences.
Now that I’ve recorded those thoughts, I’ve got to dive back into it and make some more progress. I think I’ll start off with a little more notebook doodling…
EDIT: ANTEBELLUM is now known as NAMELESS