I've struggled with how to outline a novel for years. Today, I'm here to tell you what I've decided is the best method for me.
Screw the novel outline!
I'm not like everyone else. I've never felt like I fit in. I'm okay with that for the most part, until it comes to my writing process.
I've been struggling and struggling to find the "right way" to write and revise. All I've found is that I'm not getting anywhere. I get hung up trying to make sure I'm doing everything the way all the "how to write a novel" books say to do it.
- Step 1: know the ending of your story
- Step 2: know your characters inside out
- Step 3: figure out what page everything needs to happen (beat sheets anyone?)
- Step 4: have a complex outline
- Step 5: follow your roadmap and write the novel
- Step 6: revise
- Step 7: submit/publish
Here's what I've found out. If I outline, I don't care to write the story. If I do force myself to write the story from the outline, I end up with X number of words. And I feel so proud of myself for writing an outlined story.
However, here's my issue. And it's a big one.
I get it back from my editor with comments like, "Your characters feel like they're doing stuff because they have to in order to advance the plot, not because they're acting as they should."
Well duh! Of course it feels that way, because I plotted it all out and told them to behave. The outline makes sense and will get us to the ending just fine.
Yeah, that's no good. What's the point of outlining and forcing myself to write the story if my characters feel fake and unlikeable?
What's the point of sitting around, figuring out exactly how this story is going to play out in an outline and not having any interest in it? Why am I trying to outline?
Ooh. That's a good question. Why am I trying to outline my novels?
Because I think it'll be easier to revise them. Why do I care about the ease of revising them? I like revising. I just want it to be faster. Why do I want my process to be faster? Because Authors A, B, and C are producing 6 novels a year and they're making more money than I am.
Here's the kicker. Here's what I have to accept. I'm not Author A, B, or C. I'm me.
I've always loved writing because while I'm writing a rough draft, I get to find out what happens to the characters. I get to know my characters. I get to find out how the story goes. And when I'm done with the rough draft, I get to go back and scribble all over my manuscript, improving it.
And by the time my book makes it to the reader, it's not the same book it was when I started writing it. I'm okay with that. I'm not okay with not enjoying the process.
So right now, I'm telling you guys this. I'm aiming for three novels a year.
But I'm also telling you that I can't tell you what those three novels will be. And I can't tell you if they're going to be a part of a series. I can't even tell you if they'll be romance or not.
They'll be whatever shows up on my paper when I write by hand. Because yes, I'm going back to writing my drafts by hand, because that's what I like to do. It's not fast, and it's not the way I should do it if I want to be productive. But it's my way.