What Did You Learn About Writing in 2010?

The new year always offers moment of reflection on the past year and what’s coming.  One of the biggest revelations for me came in December, and it was on why outlines haven’t worked me.

I’ve always just started writing.  No outlines. And I’ve had people pressure me to use an outline over the years, always with whatever their format was.

Novel writing presented special challenges, because I’ve had a lot of trouble with running too short and with subplots.  So I tried different types of outlines and participated in an outline workshop.  What I found was that the outline always crashed and burned at about Chapter 3.

The only one that was a little different was the workshop.  That provided a clue that eventually led me to discover why outlines haven’t worked.  The workshop came in four sessions.  The last two I had a hard with–I didn’t understand them, but I tried to fake my through, figuring I might get an understanding by doing. I have to learn by doing, but it’s hard when you don’t understand what you’re doing.  The instructor kept telling me I needed to do more character development in the outline.  I was having trouble with the story and I was sure about the characters, so I was letting them go.  She kept pressuring me to do character development, so I finally tried to get something in.  It was very difficult, and frustrating.  A month after the workshop, I looked at the troublesome lessons again and still didn’t understand them at all.

I started How to Think Sideways in December.  That’s Holly Lisle’s workshop on how to create a book from the beginning.  In Lesson 5, she shows a very different approach to outlining.  I realized that a traditional outline requires me to juggle all the elements i.e., protagonist, antagonist, conflict, story, etc. at the same time, so I was dropping balls.  In some cases, like in the outline workshop, I dropped elements I knew would be easy, but I’ve also dropped balls on hard elements.  I do better when these elements are in buckets, separate of each other, so I only need to focus on one.

What did you learn about your writing in 2010?


One thought on “What Did You Learn About Writing in 2010?

  1. bigwords88

    Despite my best efforts to keep going when I should step back, I finally learned that real life can take precedence over writing. I practically stopped writing for a couple of months (save for blogging) as I dealt with an accumulation of disasters, and it made me realize that I should concentrate on the best writing I can do in the time available rather than cramming a lot into a short enough amount of free time. Quality over quantity.


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