Recently I quit my job so that I could have the mental space and time to write my book. This is the book that I’ve had partially mapped out for over a year now. The book with which I attended a UC Berkeley Extension course on how to write your novel. Yes, this is the book that was calling me each time I got home after my thirteen hour day too tired to write. Like a child calling, it hurt me to have to say “I’m too tired to work on you now.” So, yes I quit my job for this book.
My first month of unemployment and book writing was great. I accomplished many of the things on my todo list, including writing parts of my book.
At first, I revamped my outline and character set. During the time away from my book, I had researched other books and did have input to record. So time away hasn’t been completely fruitless.
My second month, which is where I am still, has been a bit more interesting. After I finished revamping my outline, I found that I kept whiddling on my introductory scene, never moving past it. While the introduction is an exposition of the cleverness with which I can develop an event and introduce a character, so far nothing of great importance has happened. I seem to be a bit stuck.
It isn’t that I don’t have in mind what should happen. Instead I am suffering from intimidation of the worst kind. I am intimidated by finishing and by the possibility of forgetting a plot line, which seems sort of elusive to me. Writing this now elucidates how silly my issue is. So, I did a couple of things that have transformed the overwhelming task of maintaining all of the threads in my novel into a task of maintaining manageable chunks which I can deal with one-by-one.
I used to do something like this when I was a technical writer, which was just a month or so ago. When given a writing assignment, I would first complete a task analysis and then create an outline of topic headers that show the workflow for how to complete the overarching task. The topics in the outline are themselves chunked according to sub-tasks required to complete the overarching task.
In this case the story is the overarching task and the events in the story that create the different parts of the story are sub-tasks. This method can be incorporated in several different ways; however, I have used a very linear method that simply lists everything that happens, keeping in mind the story climax, and conflicts.
So, I added every bit of detail to my outline for every scene I could imagine happening in this book. Then I bolded the outline and plopped it into my book document. Now I have a clear overarching view of my entire story all in short bold sentences one after the other, like a page of twitts.
Then, I went from scene to scene filling in what I had already thought should happen there using non-bolded text. This is important to demarcate the different sections of the outline.
In technical writing, the different topics are self-contained so that is what I’ve done in my book too. While this method has introduced new and different issues and I will have to go back and delete the bolded outline, it has helped me to tackle new scenes with more abandon.
When I am finished, I will go back with a fine toothed comb to smooth out the knots created between the sections.
I thought I would share this method because it has helped me a lot. In my experience reading books on how to write books, I’ve not come across this exact method.
–just another knot untangled.