Writing: Outline Updates

Well, the second draft of my novel is progressing nicely. I have a feeling this draft is going to be a fair bit longer than 100,000 words, as I’m a third of the way to that already and the main plot still hasn’t really started rolling yet. But I can also see some problems with the outline I’m working from as well.

To begin with, I decided I needed a scene that wasn’t outlined originally. Not a problem, at least not after I slapped myself. I was agonizing over it at first when I realized this is my outline, I can diverge from it if I wish. If I think the scene is needed, I’ll put it in and worry later (if ever) about it breaking up the smooth Character A-Character B alternation on viewpoints. Yes, it’s probably a good idea to stop and question why you’re making changes, but it’s okay to make changes.

The next problem is that the longer I think about it, the more I realize my outline, as it stands, is weak. The middle section of the novel just doesn’t involve enough physical and emotional peril for the characters. I’m not willing to run them through the wringer, and that needs to change. I also need to bring out the main characters’ internal conflicts more and make the plot keeping pushing those buttons.

Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is “hey, it’s only for practice” syndrome. Part of me really wants to ditch this plot and go start something entirely new. I know the outline has problems, but rather than fix them, why not go do something more interesting? I have to fight this temptation, however, otherwise it will always be easy to move on to something else instead of learning to recognize and fix what problems are there. It’s certainly something I need help with, so why not work on it?

On the bright side, both because of and in spite of the outline, I think I’m making a better case for my two secondary characters to a) stay in the novel, and b) stay separate characters. They really had little to do in the first draft other than be there because I said they needed to be there. This time I introduce them earlier and under better circumstances, and they’re developing fairly well so far.

Finally, there is one more problem I’m still debating how to address. As I said above, I’m 33k+ words into the novel, and the main plot has been little more than alluded too. I did drop a scene into the first section to let readers know there are big things happening elsewhere, but I’m not sure it’s enough. I may end up going back and adding another scene or two to the beginning in order to let people know that something is brewing off-screen if they’ll just hang in there.

Otherwise, it’s becoming increasingly evident I may have to cut the first part of the book. I don’t want to. I like that part. I think it helps develop the characters considerably. But if the reader loses interest before we get  to the good stuff,well…I’ve lost the reader before the good stuff! I need to fix that problem.

I’m fairly confident this draft will end up much better than the previous draft. I may have to accept the fact, though, that this one will not be submission-grade material when I’m done. As soon as I finish this draft I’ll have a hard decision on whether to do another revision or move on to something else. Unless I fall more in love with the story soon, I may have to recommend moving on. But we’ll see. It’s still a ways off.

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