In the interest of full disclosure (does anyone else love using that phrase?), I’ve written a few posts about outlines over the years. I think I even had one in January. The things is that my opinions have evolved since I began writing.
And I thought I’d revisit the subject.
The short answer to why I now use an outline is: I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.
And that was the ‘short’ answer.
The long answer? I have a shit memory and not having an outline was affecting my ability to write a cohesive mystery series.
Looking back, my fear of outlines comes directly from learning about them in school. I hated the rigidness of them. And also, they never made sense to me. At all.
It randomly struck me last year that an outline could be whatever worked for me.
I began with a cobbled together version of a tree branch mind map. That morphed to include a bastardized version of the beat sheet. And finally, I began doing a chapter by chapter one sentence breakdown that I updated as I write.
The latter is the most recent addition.
I’ve found it really helpful was I’m writing to jot down a sentence or a thought for what’s going to come in the future chapters. With a mystery, I don’t want to be stumbling for clues as the writer. And I’ve done that a few times in the past.
It’s been a revelation toward making my writing life easier.
I hate outlining. Always have. I hated it when I was in school. Still hate it. It, to my autistic mind, is unnecessary and illogical. I don’t like the pattern of standard outlines. They irritate me.
And I am a proud pantser.
I’m not–not entirely a pantser anymore.
I now use a bastardized version of the beat sheet. Plus, a cozy mystery outline I found online that is basically just a series of questions to allow an author to keep track of the details of the victim, the killer, and the main suspects.
These are new additions to what I usually keep in my book bible.
As I’m now working on what will hopefully be two lengthy book series, keeping outlines and additional information will save me from losing my mind when I write book 2.
I don’t think I’ll ever be a full planner. I doubt I’ll work with a traditional outline. They annoy me too much.
But, a little bit of planning has definitely kept my last two WIPs from going off the rails.
I’m writing this blog post on Sunday. And my brain is all over the place. It’s hard to find peace and joy when the world seems chaotic and filled with pain. And writing a holiday novella seems almost impossible.
Though, that is not the topic of this post.
I wanted to talk about fighting your muse. Something I don’t recommend, and something I frequently do as a pantser.
My muse likes to dump ideas on me constantly at inconvenient times and places.
In the middle of writing a story?
My bastard of a muse: “here’s a brilliant and completely unrelated idea.”
My muse: “Have you considered….”
In the shower?”
My Muse: “I am a genius.”
So when do you fight the muse?
It can be dangerous to ignore good ideas. I mean, they’re good. You want to write them.
Some ideas I have to let go because I don’t think they’re mine to write. Others I jot down in my idea notebook (I start a new one every year.) And some, I start immediately because my brain won’t quit.
The key is to know when to battle your muse into submission–like when you have a deadline and don’t have time for a new idea.
And when to go with the flow.
How about you?
Does your muse flood you with ideas at the worst moments?
At the time of writing this post, I’m about eight days into my 100 Days of Writing Challenge. The goal? Write 30 minutes every day for 100 days. So far, so good.
Day one through six felt like a dream. Words flowed easily. Blog posts, emails, newsletters, and several chapters in my current WIP.
And then, day seven.
Day seven was a bastard. My executive dysfunction flared its evil head. And as a result, I found myself staring blankly at my computer for hours on end. I somehow still managed two minutes, barely, but it wasn’t my best work.
Day eight was more of the same. This post actually counted for ten of my thirty minutes. The power of this challenge is I don’t feel overwhelmed by it.
Even on a bad mental health day, I can eke out at least ten minutes or even twenty.
And as an added bonus, eking out those ten-minute sprints help me feel as though I’ve accomplished something, which in turn boosts my spirits on days like today.
So, eight days in, this challenge feels perfect for me.
Less stressful than NaNoWriMo, which usually leaves me feeling like a wrung out dishrag. I feel energized. And I’m writing.
Have you ever done a 100 or 365-day challenge? How did it go for you?
One of my goals this year was to watch online education and/or inspirational videos. I got a two-month freebie to Skill Share and wound up watching “How To Start (And Finish!) Your Very Own 365 Day Project” which inspired my challenge and this post. Also, (This link takes you to the videos and also offers a Skillshare Premium free for 2 months. https://skl.sh/2Udq0rI)
I was drawn to this lesson on Skill Share because I recognized the teacher from a sticker shop I love on Esty. After watching, I decided maybe I could get over my spring writing hump with a challenge. And I chose to get really specific.
100 Days of writing 30 minutes a day in 10-minute increments. I can write on a WIP, a blog post, a personal journal, a newsletter, or a letter to a penpal. The goal is simply to show up and put words on paper in some form or another.
Ten-minute increments work well for me because I’m less likely to get completely distracted.
I also set specific times for writing. One after breakfast, one before lunch, and the third can be any time in the afternoon but before dinner.
One other critical aspect is I’m bringing along others for the ride. I shared my challenge on social media, and several author friends are taking part. I’m less likely to fail if I have others joining me.
I am keeping track two ways. One in a bullet journal (see photo below) and two by posting an Instagram photo daily.
Since blogging is one of the acceptable forms of writing, I’ll likely update on my progress and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
How about you?
Have you done a 100 days or 365 days challenge before? Were you successful? Feel free to hop onto my 100-day challenge if you’re a writer.