Ugh. You guys, seriously, I am right there.
I was fully intending on being stubborn and writing all night, posting at 4am that, “We’re in the endgame now.”
But then I realized that what stands between me and that endgame . . . is the fight at the end of the second act. A fight which, mind you, I did not plot out.
And realizing that, I immediately switched gears to, “Oh. Right. There’s not a chance in hell I’m getting through that tonight.
However, I will get to the third act tomorrow. It’s not as perfectly timed, sure . . .
. . . but eh–this week was still awesome writing-wise.
Because it yielded some of the best changes I’ve ever made to any WIP.
And yielded some important lessons.
Additions Always Require Smoothing Out,
No Matter How Free They Seem
When I initially decided to add what I’m calling “the Cave Scene,” it wasn’t the first time I added a scene in the middle of a WIP. My first novel, Exiles, got slowly destroyed by those additions, and, conversely, the original version of Memory was greatly improved by a single addition to its second act. In both cases, however, the expansions were massive; the original version of Memory saw an entirely new area added–an area that is so iconic to the finished product that I can’t believe the very first draft of the story didn’t have it.
Anyway, the difference with my current WIP is that the Cave Scene was–and still is–a small addition; I didn’t invent a whole new area for the heroes to adventure through–I just expanded the events in an area they had already passed through.
For that reason, I thought the Cave Scene would be super free (“free” in this case being a gaming term for “so easy that it’s guaranteed”). I thought I’d add it and it would be no problem whatsoever.
This week, however, I realized that wasn’t the case.
Because although the addition was good, the tone it brought to the story really needed to be reinforced. In my notes, I wrote that the relationship the Cave Scene created needed “room to breathe.”
And I am . . . so grateful that I didn’t plow through to the end because giving it the room it needed (by editing everything after the cave scene) would have been so much worse if the entire novel was already finished.
As it was, I was able to edit the (effectively) three chapters after the Cave Scene to give my characters room in this week alone.
It required that I rebalance the emotions at the end of the second act . . .
. . . but I seriously cannot state enough how much better the end of act two is now. It is ridiculous how much better the story is now. I wish I could just spoil it, but I can’t, so just trust me: the end of the second act is so much more intense and meaningful that I get chills imagining the horrible alternate reality where I went with the version from last week.
Which sounds like an exaggeration, but it isn’t.
And on that note . . .
I Need to Take More Time with My Outlines
My process is going to need a little tweaking because, while I was laying out the changes that needed to be made this week, I realized . . .
I really should’ve figured this all out in the Outlining Phase of my process.
And the only reason I didn’t . . . is that I was hellbent on getting the outline finished in time for Camp NaNoWriMo.
This is maybe the umpteenth time I’ve realized I need to slow down my process, so I’m just going to respect it.
And admit that, yes, I need to slow down a bit with it.
In particular, I need to give myself another month or so after I finish writing an outline to evaluate it. My writing group helps a lot in this regard, but I need to instate a dedicated, chill Review Phase for myself, the goal of which really needs to be heavy, objective criticism.
I know I just said the Review Phase would be chill, but I guess that just means I’ll be sipping wine while I harshly judge my outlines?
Cause the harsh judging part needs to happen; I re-e-e-eally should’ve caught that the Cave Scene needed to be added before I wrote past it. I feel like I lucked into it (which I know is impostor syndrome bullshit because I spotted the need for the Cave Scene myself and literally took extra whole weeks to add it in a way that felt interesting and natural to the rest of the novel).
But I guess what I’m getting at here is that I really don’t want to be surprised by the need for this kind of addition ever again.
The Goal for Book 3 / 5: Make sure the outline is whole before I start writing. I know things will change in the final product, but I never want to add another Cave Scene.
With that said . . .
The Book 4 Lesson Tally So Far:
- It’s okay to take days off when you’re writing your novel. Speaking personally here, I am not a machine and my healthy pace naturally includes days off.
- Ffs, plot out your fight scenes.
- Giving yourself options for ways to complete scenes > stating the one way a scene can go >>>>> telling your future self to have fun deciding what a scene is like. That’s not my job, Past Louis! That’s your fuckin’ job, dude! Who writes, “Have fun making this up!” in an outline? Motherfucker, you make it up!
- There will inevitably be changes from the outline, no matter how methodically you plot it out.
- However, rushing an outline and accidentally leaving it incomplete is definitely not good. It creates a ton of work for you at best. In other words, it’s okay to chill, maybe actually celebrate finishing your outline, and return to it with as objective an eye as you possibly can.
To close out here, I’d like to add one final lesson. It’s small and I came to it by accident last night, after I finished writing at 2am.
To put it concisely, it’s okay to tell impostor syndrome to fuck off.
I’m not advocating for everyone to start talking to themselves, but last night, I saved my MS, closed it, and immediately thought, Oh man, I barely spent any time writing today though.
To which I said, aloud, “Dude . . . I just spent six hours writing. Six fucking hours. It wasn’t all day, sure, but my ass was in that chair for six hours. Fuck you.”
And I’m sharing this because, seriously, if there’s any concept it’s ever okay to curse out, it’s impostor syndrome when it tries to make you feel bad for only writing for six hours.
Seriously, give it a shot. Because no matter how little writing you did today, your ass was still in that chair, and if anyone or anything wants to downplay that achievement, you deserve to tell them to fuck off.
That said, I’ve decided I’m tuning out after this; no additional work on the MS–I’m just going to relax.
If you’re new here, I post every Sunday. However, I am a vampire who wakes up at 2pm and (sometimes) plays D&D for hours on Sundays, so posts may come out in the wee hours of Monday morning, like this one. And, yes, I played today and my warforged fighter got one-shot by a super powerful mage who crit with an ice spell; I don’t remember the exact numbers, but it was something like 37 damage after I succeeded at a Dex saving throw. Definitely one of those “Holy shit–am I about to skip death saving throws?” moments.
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Either way, take care, stay hydrated, and remember that if you’re an aspiring writer, you’re seriously working a second job and you deserve all the respect in the world for that.