First, go read this post about “outlines and word quotas and why they sometimes might lead to sucky writing.” Then come back and let me tell you about all the outlines and word quotas and sucky writing I’ve been doing lately. ‘Cause boy oh boy is it fun! (Not.)
Okay, if you’re too lazy to read Justine Musk’s post (but really, don’t be — or at least read section #3) then here’s the gist of it:
I believe in outlines. Except when I don’t.
I believe in daily word quotas. Except when I don’t.
I believe in encountering the work, which an outline can prevent you from doing.
Unfortunately, this is extremely relevant to my new book. See, I decided to set word quotas, but I did not outline, because I too believe in “encountering the work.” However, what I encountered this time was a big fat BORING first chapter.
Why? Because I wrote back story. I wrote 3,500 words about Jake and Yvonne that could have been summed up in one simple sentence: Their relationship has gone stale.
When I realized what I’d done, late on Sunday night, I kind of wanted to die. Because I was exhausted, I still had a quota to fill, and my writing was poop. (Poop!)
Did I cry that night? You bet I did. Teeny tiny tears of frustration. It sucked. Did I write that night? You bet I did. All 1,000 words. They sucked too.
So why did I even bother to finish my quota if I knew I might have to chuck most of it? Because I didn’t want to lose momentum. A more disciplined person probably could have afforded to just stop, take a step back, and focus on fixing Chapter 1, but I’ve proven time and time again that if I don’t keep my momentum going, I will lose it. And 2010 is about winning, not losing.
Therefore, I am now outlining. But wait, Kristan! Didn’t that quote say outlines are bad and lead to sucky writing?! Well, yes and no. It said outlines sometimes lead to sucky writing, because they can make a writer feel tied to an idea that doesn’t truly fit the story. But sometimes you really need an outline, otherwise you’re driving from Maine to California with no map. Sure, you might know to head southwest, but guess what? Mexico is southwest of Maine too. And though there are a few similarities, Mexico and California are most definitely not the same.
Some people have a really good sense of direction, and they would have no problem getting to California without GPS or Google Maps or even road signs. But me, I need a map. If something comes up, like heavy traffic or construction (cough cough metaphor for part of the outline that isn’t working cough cough), then I’ll find a detour. But driving across the country with nothing more than my instincts? That’s not for me. Not this time.
What about you? Do you have a good sense of direction, or do you prefer to use a map? (Note: I’m technically asking about writing, in a roundabout way, but if you want to talk about actual driving, be my guest!)