And also, seriously, I can’t believe the Promises Outline approach is working as well as it is.
If you’re new here, I’m Louis Santiago, a writer from New York who’s been trying to perfect his writing process for sixteen years. Before that, I was in the Post-Its phase of writing (all worldbuilding, no actual writing–outside of a few embarrassing short stories).
But in 2005, I started my first novel, which was extensively worldbuilt and very heavily outlined. It didn’t work; the outline was so detailed that it fell apart the moment I veered off course in prose (the terrible ripple effect of, “Well, let me alter the rest of the outline so it works with this change I just made–and now that I’ve taken 2 days to do that, let me go back to the novel and . . . what scene was I writing again??”). The end result was bad, even after a bunch of edits and a 2010 rewrite.
In 2014, I went the total opposite direction and tried discovery writing a novel. Which was a lot of fun . . . but ultimately very, very messy. I felt like I was getting somewhere, and even submitted that 2014 novel after a few edits, but after a handful of tries, I stopped, because something was still off.
Now, on July 8th, 2021, you’re joining me right at the point where I actually think I’ve figured out my process. It took listening to class sessions that a highly successful, published author posted on his YouTube (Brandon Sanderon is a saint), and a bunch of sessions with my private writing group, but I think I’ve finally got it.
And it’s such a positive, optimistic moment in my life that it’s actually scary.
The answer appears to be both pantsing and plotting. Kind of.
The pantsing part of my brain is sated by worldbuilding and (I know this is going to sound weird but) outlining; I still write detailed outlines so I can hit all of the same dopamine highs, but I also leave those outlines wide open to change.
So the plotting side of my brain can follow a roadmap of possibilities to a finished product (although I’ve discovered that part of my brain loves to just have details cleanly laid out so he can just knock out scenes).
And that is the part that I cannot believe is true, because I was so sure it would be a massive hurdle.
I thought I would get to the first scene and be like, “No. I want this to be completely different,” thus falling into the trap from my first, 2005 novel.
But, even though that has happened . . . I still managed to make the outline loose enough to totally allow for it.
As of right now, I am 11,278 words into Memory, a really heavy rewrite of my 2014 novel. And, yes, the fact that it’s a rewrite makes it easier to belt out–totally.
But whatever. Let me have the giddy disbelief that my excitement from last week’s post didn’t die 20 minutes into July 1st.
Especially considering there have been those tough moments:
On Day 2, I got crazy over-zealous and wrote two day’s worth, absolutely burning myself out for a day, which has made me hyper aware of and respectful to my internal reserves of Write Energy (it sounds less weird than “Write Juice”).
On Day 4, after a break, I struggled with a scene that had a strange flow in outline; I assumed I would be able to use some elements from the original novel, but they really didn’t fit the tone of the rewrite, so I had to make a bunch of tweaks.
Day 6, was an absolute nightmare because I didn’t clarify the location where a scene took place (to specify, not the immediate setting, but where that setting was located in a city). I spent the entire day contemplating extremely esoteric details of a scene that amounted to two pages.
I cannot believe that went through that gauntlet of momentum killers, and I’m still in it. That I have a functional process. I didn’t just give up on Day 6 and turn on video games. I didn’t convince myself I needed a week away just to come back having forgotten every last plot thread.
Sixteen years and I finally found a way to reliably write something whole–in roughly 2 years.
I am so goddamn excited for the next steps. The goal is going to be making that 2 years canon (with worldbuilding, outlining, writing, and editing).
But I’m also going to have to work out an outline for the rest of the Memory series. And then Aixa. Hand and the Tempest.
Just naming those projects made me starry-eyed.
I’m going to end this post here.
And hope that the next time I write to you, it won’t be to report that the other shoe dropped.