I've started writing the second book in the Dana Lewis series. I couldn't put it off any longer. Okay, that's not true. I could stall for another three, four months easy, but I was becoming alarmed at how lazy I was getting about not writing. So I started slow, outlining the first few chapters. Baby steps, as they say.
Writers often discuss what the best outlining process is, and there're lots of methods to choose from. You can outline the entire book or just part, use flowcharts, sticky notes, or scratch paper to remember your ideas, or you can skip outlining altogether.
My usual method is to jot down ideas for the first three or four chapters and then start writing. As I flesh out the first couple of chapters, I can see where the story is headed and outline the next couple of chapters, then as I write those, I understand the direction of the plot and outline the next two, and so on. Voila, the book is eventually done. But using this method makes me worry about missing the big picture of the book. Is there an overall story arc? Do I want to have a recurring incident pop up throughout the plot?
Penny, from my writing group, manages to plot out her entire book first, so she can make sure everything is consistent, that the story moves in a cohesive fashion, and that all the subplots get tied up at the end. Seems like a nice, organized method, so I decided to give it a shot. And what happened? I made it to chapter six before my outline started to falter. I'm not sure if my mind naturally only works in chunks or if I've trained myself to only plot a few chapters at a time, but I simply could not guess how the story would progress after that point. While I could force myself to come up with some sort of plot to outline, I worried that the story would stop making sense, or I'd go down the wrong path and find myself stuck during the actual writing process.
So last week, I decided to write the handful of chapters I'd already figured out and hope that the others would come to me. But boy, is it slow going. I've lost that groove from the previous book, when I had put myself on a daily quota of fifteen hundred words. Now, I have to force myself to write fifteen words a day. It's this dreaded first chapter. I need to set the scene, introduce the main characters, and have something exciting happen all in the first ten pages. And my outline was a bit vague, as it turns out. Dana's sister's boyfriend is going to be murdered in this book, and Dana's sister is the last person to see him alive. In my outline, I put down that Dana is performing a silly task at the farm when her mom calls and asks her to come home because her sister's been brought to the police station for questioning. Only, in the outline, I didn't specify what silly task Dana is doing. And frankly, now that I'm writing the scene, I can't think of a thing, and definitely nothing funny.
But if I can just slog through this chapter, kill off the boyfriend, and get the plot moving, the process of writing will roll right along. At least that's what I keep telling myself.