So if any of your have been following my writing journey from the beginning you know that most of my work has been organic. I start with an idea and then let things go how it does. Pantsing as this is also called, is a very disorganized writing structure but it works well for some authors. For me at the beginning it worked very well. Or at least I thought so.
To date, I’ve written several short stories, some novellas and novelettes, and 3 full novels. Most of them have been organically written. Of them I’ve had 10 short stories published. And currently have 2 items out on submission.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten frustrated with my work. Not because I’ve not had ideas (those hit me up side of the head frequently) but because I’m not executing the idea well enough. After several “not quite but close” rejections of a particular story from pro markets, I’ve sat down and critically examined what I’ve written. And the comments are right, the story is there, it’s a good idea, but what I’ve written, just isn’t good enough.
So the new question becomes how to I fix this. And now, I think I know.
The biggest issue with pantsing is you don’t know where you are going until you get there. You can’t plan what’s going to happen. You just meander around and hope that it all fall into place. With some stories you can do that. Some authors have the ability to do that. But over the years, I’ve proven that I can’t quite do that.
Over the years, I’ve learned to lean more on a roadmap when I write a story. It’s a very lose outline that hits the major plot points but doesn’t tell me how exactly to get there. My writing improved but not enough for a novel.
This time, I’m trying something different with Project 2. Instead of pantsing and letting the story go where it wants, I’m creating a much more structured outline. I’m breaking down everything into scenes. Each scene has its own handwritten page that includes:
Where: Scene location
Who: Who’s involved in the scene
When: How long after the previous scene does this take place
Why: Why does this scene need to take place. What’s revealed or what do the characters think?
What happens: What’s the result of this scene
Consequences: Choices positive and negative of the characters in this scene.
Right now I’m at chapter 28 and I’ll probably finish at around chapter 35 or so.
If each chapter averages around 2,000 words that will leave me at around 70,000 words for the second draft. I can tell right now that what’s outlined is much stronger and intriguing story than the first draft. I have character conflicts (internal and external). An outer plot for the story, a much more far reaching plot that encompasses some of the series. And I’ve been able to set up a few hints of what’s to come.
So after I’ve finished outlining I’m going to start writing. And this time, it’ll be better.