Final Phases

I am sipping ginger-peach tea, wearing pajamas, and discussing favored styles of gun-based gameplay while Todd explores the first areas of Borderlands for the Xbox 360. The fussy dog is remembering that she actually likes her kibble and the cat is being cattish, waiting for an opportunity to sneak-snuggle. Which is about all I have the energy for these days.

I’m coming home quite tired after my new end time of 8:00pm. I managed to fumble my way through dinner, leftovers every night, partake in some limited social interaction, and then find myself in bed by 10:00pm. This would ordinarily make me quite glum, but I’m not thanks to my morning writing sessions.

I’m on to week two. Except for the 12th, where I mostly took it easy because Todd was off for the Thanksgiving holiday, I have showed up to the blank page and I have written every work day. All but two days were above 1,000 words (one was at 500 words, one at the oh-so-close-but-had-to-go 900 words). I did finish the “non-scene” and I am now at work on Chapter 30. That leaves me eight days to write the next three scenes/chapters, all of which will run longer rather than shorter. If I can keep my pace, I will hit about 8,000 words and the first draft of my second novel will be done.

I’m at 68,700 words right now — a little short for a novel, but part of the trend I’m noticing in my work. When I write short stories, I write long and always need to cut back. When I write novel-length stuff, I tend to write lean, and need to go back and build up muscle on top of the skeleton of the story. I don’t know if that’s normal (or even a productive) way to be writing, but it’s starting to concern me. The last novel-length project was at the 85,000 mark and the current WIP may hit 75,000 words — both a little low for a proper novel.

But here’s where the Phase Outlining may be changing that.

When I started the current WIP, I had preliminary scenes drafted by hand that I typed up and then used as my guide points to create the basic outline. And I mean basic, like A visits B for the first time and learns C, but there’s a twist, D! Every time I sat down to write the next scene, a lot of keyboard time was spent trying to figure out the details of how all that happens. Since I’d had success in the beginning with drafting first longhand and then adding to it when I typed it up, I thought that was the way to go. And that worked, mostly. (I have about a third or more of the novel written out by hand, actually.) Even then, though, I’d get stuck every so often and spin my wheels. To get over that, or really, just to warm up my fingers, I started every hand-written page with mini entries: Where were we? and What’s next? I’d summarize what just happened and then brainstorm the details of what was to come.

And this helped. A lot. I was making real progress again.

Then it got too busy at work to write anything coherent. As soon as that happened, my progress at the keyboard back home ground to a halt. I wasn’t writing at all, even on my days off, and I was starting to feel miserable. I also felt that as close as I was to the end of the book, I wasn’t able to picture it in my head, not all the details and events that flesh out the story.

So I tried Phase Outlining. Not the whole rest of the novel, just the scene/chapter up ahead. I sit down and Phase Outline by hand the whole of the next chapter, all the main points, and any notes along the way, and then I use it as my guide when I sit down at the keyboard. And it’s something I can do while I’m at work, no matter how busy it is. It’s helped so much in the last two weeks. I sit down, I know exactly what I am going to write, and I find I’m writing more in each scene because I already have the skeleton to build on.

Would I phase outline the whole book before starting? Now that I don’t know. Not for NaNoWriMo. I’ll probably use it to outline the scenes ahead, but not too far ahead. I would really like to get the draft finished before the end of the week if possible so I can spend a couple of mornings working on the prep work for NaNoWriMo before November 1st.

Maybe I can sneak in a Sunday morning or something.

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