Hello again bloggers. This week we are discussing the topic of setting realistic writing goals or outlining. I'm going to try and touch on both of these because I think they go hand in hand.
I used to be a panster. No outline, no character sketches, just go! It was the worst thing I ever did. While I had a story there, it was written so poorly that it sickens me to see the first drafts of some of my stories. I had characters with magically changing hair and eye color, thier personalities would take a sudden 180! The plot would jump and skip and go off on a side direction - completely out of control.
So I tried writing notes and keeping them in a notebook. This quickly became disorganized so I switched to loose paper in a three ring binder. It really made a difference in my writing but even still, I felt like my stories were missing something and I couldn't figure out why.
I took a workshop earlier this summer about outlining and plotting. The workshop used the book JD mentioned yesterday First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner. I enjoyed it so much, I actually bought the book. Do I follow her steps completely? No. But I do use many of them.
I write very, very detailed character and setting sketches using the sketch worksheets in Karen's book. I added a few things of my own of course, to work with my fantasy level stories. I also made a few changes to make them work with my series. In Karen's book, I believe she says to make new sketches for each book of a series (or maybe I heard it somewhere else). I think that is a waste of valuable time and paper. When I go to outline/plan the second or third book, I merely add to what is already there. I don't create brand new sketches.
Now when it comes to actual plot outlines and summaries, I don't do this. Occasionally I'll write down a few notes or ideas in a bulleted list, but I don't actually outline the story in order or anything like that. It doesn't hinder my creativity when I do, I just don't like to do it. Since I character and setting sketch so deeply, I get extremely excited about the story and just want to write it.
Before I edit any story however, I always write an outline. I don't know why I do this, but it seems to help me stay on track. Usually as I go to edit, I come up with great ideas for scenes or things to add that take away from the main plot of the story. So, I have to have an outline handy to make sure I stay on track.
How does this relate to setting realstic goals? Well first point, if you don't know how you write, you can't set any time frame or goal to complete anything, in my opinion. I can say that I can sketch and write a full draft in a month - without the crazyness of NaNoWriMo. However, editing takes at a bare minimum, three months. (And that's not counting my main WIP that has taken forever - that's how badly it was written the first time.) So, I realistically set a goal to write a new book and have it finished in the next four months. Extra time given for when life gets in the way and to make sure I don't skip school and things like that.
Also, sketching and outlining the way I do helps me to stay focused - so that four month goal I can actually keep. Without focus, it would take me much longer to write and edit a book! My main WIP is a perfect example of this. I've been working on this story for EIGHT YEARS! But I have many other stories that are ready and waiting for a final polish or even the first edit.
Sketching out details greatly helps and I recommend this method even to pansters. At least get some notes written down about the setting and characters to help you stay on track - without hindering any of the plot. It works great for me - and I wish I used this method years ago.