WWPR: Manuscript baking & outlining.


Any followers from 2015 remember my WWPR posts? Yeah, me neither, until a bout of nostalgia propelled me to dig into my archives. WWPR stands for 'Weekly Writing Progress Report'. I started it when I drafted M4, the manuscript that got me into PitchWars and also landed me my first agent. It was, and still continues to be the book of my heart.

One thing I loved about M4 was how easy it was to write (well easy in comparison to all my projects after it and before it) that I got to wondering if blogging about it was the secret ingredient to making it so enjoyable. So, out of curiosity, I dug back into the archives to read about my process, and it brought all these fond memories containing such great nuggets of illuminating advice current-me can still learn from and appreciate. With all of my discussions about my process and how beneficial it was to my craft, I wondered why I ever stopped? Sure I had some posts about my other projects, but this weekly snapshot of seeing it grow and how it became an integral part of my life was truly something.

(If you're curious about those posts, click here and it will lead you down the rabbit hole)

Thus, I'm bringing WWPR back for my pleasure and enjoyment, and also hopefully yours!

So here we go!

This week in writing:

MS7: ATLWTO, YA own voices inspired Contemporary
Status: Draft Two, finished
  • This week I'm letting my YA Contemporary 'bake' so that I can get fresh eyes on it before I do my read-through this weekend. What's cool about letting it bake are the ideas coming from having more brain space to think about it instead of focusing on writing/revising it. I've been jotting down notes on my phone in hopes that they will come in handy when I start making a revision plan for draft three.
  • I did share a small excerpt with my husband on Monday to see what he thought of it. He's only read a beginning clipping from draft one, but I changed the tone and voice in draft two so I was curious to see what he thought. He liked it, and there are parts I do too, but I know it has a long way to go before matching the vision in my head.
  • READ-THROUGH PLAN: Currently I have Saturday and Sunday blocked out on my calendar to do a read-through. I'm also traveling though for the holiday, but I'm hopeful I can still knock it out since it's only 59K.
MS8: ADOSAE, YA Fantasy
Status: Outlining
  • Some background on this project: I've had this idea since forever. Remember the book of my heart I mentioned earlier M4? I guess I should have said one book from a series of my heart. Totally dangerous territory, but I can't help it. This project is my prequel to M4. It's dangerous because you should never put all your eggs in one basket, but there's something about the world and the wide nest of characters that I'm desperate to explore. I guess the one perk of not being agented right now is the fact that I get to write whatever I want for the sake of pure enjoyment. To be frank, this world is my escape so I'm gonna roll with it because I love it so much. And that's kind of awesome because I'm going to follow my heart. It's also a great break from the serious contemporary WIP above.
  • Outlining - My process changes with every book, but on this one, I couldn't help but recreate my environment from M4, so I went through my drive and notebooks to see how I outlined it and it was so simple. So simple I feel like I'm cheating. M4 only used a skimpy outline and a list of possible scenes that I kept adding to as I wrote the story. So for M8 I'm doing the same, but I'm going to be a tad bit more detailed since I won't be drafting this baby until January.
    • How I Outline (in 3 Layers):
      1. I first start with a skeleton plot (a la Sarah Dessen). Find your beginning, your midpoint, and then the end. Once you have that, make a list of scenes and try to put them in natural order that gets you from Point A to Point B. Or in this case from the beginning, middle, to end. For this part, try not to think too much, just let your creative side loose and capture all those images floating in your mind. By this point you have a very skeletal outline that might look like a scene list, and you might get stuck. Totally okay, because that brings us to layer two.
      2. Now that I have an idea of what my plot looks like, I start to think about my major characters. Who are they? What do they want? Need? Afraid of? This method is something Marissa Meyer delves into on her blog and it's always stuck with me. Plot is really your characters doing stuff. i.e. making decisions, that lead them to another, and so on until it gets progressively worst for the character (but great for the reader). I'll drop the link here for you to check out.
      3. Once I get my characters semi-developed, I start to see how they interact with the plot, and this usually ends up generating more scenes and clarity to my outline. Then to make sure I hit all the plot points, I compare my outline to a beat sheet to make sure I have all the elements of plot, and then I trace through each major character arc to see if I got that too. Review and repeat until you're satisfied. By this point, you should have a triple layered outline loose enough you know where you're headed, but not so strict that you can't deviate ;)
  • I should mention this method seems to work with my YA Fantasy pretty well, but not Contemporary. For Contemporary I switch the first and second layer in this method by planning my characters first and using the plot to serve their arc.
  • Another tip, outlining by pen and paper usually stirs more creativity than going straight to a word processor to brainstorm. I usually free write the ideas and then arrange them all typed up so I can move it around, but that's your call ;) We all have our personal preferences.

Lastly, to the dreamers:


I'm talking about those of us who aren't quite there in publishing land, but are keeping up the good fight. Those of us who've made some milestones, but have also had to dust ourselves off and pick ourselves back up. It's easy to be down on yourself as you see everyone around you (or so it seems) getting published and making their dreams come true. It's easy to be jealous or envious thinking they have it made. But appearances can be deceiving. Everyone has their own challenges, everyone still has to write, and so do you. In the end, we're all just writers trying to share the stories that matter to us. I think we sometimes forget that when all we see is a dividing line separating the ones that have 'made' it from the ones who haven't. This is an imaginary line. We're all people trying to find a home for our stories in our readers.

So keep up the good fight. Take a break if you need to. Your stories will be waiting for you when you're ready.