A Choice: Make a List Or Just Get Started?

This is a post about moving that also applies to writing.  Follow along, readers, and discover how.

Early this evening (or late this afternoon, based on your point of view) I returned home from a road trip with my best friend.  I have a large amount of stuff to take care of before I begin my trek to my new home in South Dakota, and I find myself facing a choice.

Should I make a list of everything that I need to get done, or should I just start working on things?

Of course, just getting started has some appeal.  I’ll feel like I’ve actually accomplished something when I go to bed.  Plus, if I get things done tonight, I’ll have less to do tomorrow.

Making a list has its positive points as well.  There are things that need to get done tomorrow – I can’t call about my going-away dinner tonight, nor can I pick up medicine for my dog.  If I just dive in tonight, there is a chance that my brain will not remember everything after I’ve slept.

I think I’ll go for a hybrid, because these two tasks are not mutually exclusive.  Taking the time to make a list, while it decreases the time I have for tasks, does not completely preclude getting started.  I may not get as much done as if I had skipped the list, but the benefit of not forgetting things seems to outweigh the reduction in packing time.

Now, for the part you’ve been waiting for – how does this relate to writing?  (Honestly, you’ve probably figured it out already, but play along.)  Making a list is similar to outlining a plot or writing character sketches.  It allows you to make sure that you don’t forget anything as you get involved in your story.  Just jumping in and accomplishing something is the same as just diving in and writing the story.  For most people, the hybrid is often the best option, although it looks a little different.  Instead of starting with the “list,” you can dive in for a bit of writing (to catch those vivid scenes while they are fresh) and then take the time to create the skeleton before really digging in for the rest of the writing.

For now, I’m going to make a list and then start some packing. 🙂

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Thank Goodness for Outlines!

I’ve jumped back into Dragon Pendant with both feet; this morning I re-wrote the scene I was contemplating yesterday.  The characters are running their mouths in my brain.  It’s nice to get some inspiration back again, even if it is the story I was planning to shelve for now.

At this point I am incredibly grateful that I took the time to write down a detailed outline of both the plot and the relationship development between the main characters.  I knew that I had spent some effort creating a situation with growing desire and tension, but I couldn’t remember the exact order of it, nor how I had planned for certain pieces to unfold.  The outline I had created did the trick.  It reminded me of the order I had devised but also helped bring the characters and the interplay between them back into my mind.

Thanks, Leigh of 2010, for taking the time to write the outline!

Steps to a Story: Outline

Thank you to those who voted on my Steps to a Story intro poll.  It seems to be split – two want me to take on the challenge of a male perspective with my new short story for Serial Central, and my mom voted three times for the Butterflies sequel.  🙂 

I’ve decided that I’m going to need to write two things at once anyway, since I have to write the serial and I need to get started on another novel.  Writing two stories that take place in the same world, with the same rules, makes the most sense to me, so everyone who voted gets their way!

The first step I took tonight is one that I don’t usually do, but seemed necessary considering I will be juggling two stories at once (and I didn’t want to lose the third completely).  I outlined all three stories to the extent that they currently exist in my head.  This also required some data collection from existing documents, which I will explain in a bit.

The story that is going to be shelved had some existing outlining done in several documents, as well as one very hard to read training outline scribbled in my notebook.  These I streamlined, detailed a bit (for future Leigh), and saved.  Dragon story: shelved for the moment, in the best condition possible for later use.

The sequel had only one sheet of notes in one of my writing notebooks, labelled “Sequel Thoughts.”  These ideas have grown since, so I put them into a computer document that I can access later.  The outline is very rough, consisting only of an overarching plot idea and several sub-plots.  I know a little more than I wrote, mostly a couple of scenes that are rolling around in my head, but since this is a project I am planning to actively work on, the details seemed a little less needed.  Butterflies 2: rough plot ideas outlined.

The third story, the serial short story, is a pseudo-prequel.  I think that’s the best term for it; unlike Burden or even Bonded, the actual plot of the new story doesn’t directly impact the plot of Butterflies (other than the need for the main character to be in a position to father one of the main characters of the novel).  However, it is the back story of someone who plays a role in Butterflies, so I do have some preconceived notions of the story.  For this pseudo-prequel, I went through all of the sections of Butterflies where he appears or is discussed and made notes about what I already know about his story.  I also returned to the first draft of the novel – I streamlined my first few chapters in the second draft and some of Matthew’s story had been cut.  Going back allowed me to remember what I had originally created for this character; even though it is not in the current version of the novel, it did impact how I wrote his character, so it is relevant.  Plus, why re-create something if it already exists?  Short story: briefly outlined.

So tonight’s writing session was more a fact-finding, drafting session and not so much a creative session.  It was needed, though, and now I’m ready to start writing!