Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Challenge to Me And You

I changed my mind about doing A Round of Words in 80 Days.  I would really like to do it, and I recommend it, but I realize that I really need to be oriented to Monthly goals, not quarterly.  And I am only vaguely following rules of ROW80, if at all. (Not really posting a measurable goal, not updating on their schedule.)
The truth is, I prefer to have less frequent "scheduled" posts.  (Call them, also, "duty" posts, which run the risk of being boring.)  I like to post other things in clumps.  And at the start of, say, a writing experiment or challenge like this, I like to post more frequently at the beginning, then back off for a while.

So, I'm going to start each month with a challenge -- what I want to accomplish that month. 

Not everything I intend to accomplish.  Just the things that I also want to talk about on the blog.  I have a bazillion projects going at once.  What I'll likely do is highlight one or another each month.


This is a Challenge To You All.

Pick a project, something you want to accomplish this month.  It can be your main project, or a minor thing you are doing in the background and don't want to forget about.  It can also be a part of a larger challenge like ROW80 or that NaNoWriMo camp thing.

Write a blog or tumblr post about it, and then tweet about it with the hashtag #daringwriters. (You can also post a link in the comments here.)

Camille's April Challenge

I have several larger goals that are nibbling at me, and I think this month's project brings them together.

Goal 1: to try out my Xtreme Outlining idea and see if it works for me. (More about this below.)

Goal 2: to continue the fun of the Story Game.

Goal 3: to develop the best method for writing a novel in fits and starts.  All writers have to deal with projects that get put on the back burner sometimes.  And those who have to -- or choose to -- devote most of their time to something else (such as a day job or child rearing, or health issues) must deal with constant distraction and a low priority on their writing.

To that end, April's Goal is:

To write an outrageously detailed outline for two of my Situation Game books: Covet Thy Neighbor, and In Flight.  Also, to do strictly limited work on a third outline for a third book, Death of a Plain Girl.

That "strictly limited" work on the third book is an attempt to mimic what it's like to write when working full time and taking care of kids.  So a couple hours a week at most on that book.

Ironically, if something goes nuts in my life and I am unable to work on the first two books, I'll probably keep working on that third one, because then I won't have to mimic real life!

Now, as to what I mean by outrageously detailed outline, or what I call....

Xtreme Outlining

I am neither a pantser or a plotter -- or perhaps you could say I am both.  I move back and forth as the story needs.  I often think of outlining as like when you're swimming underwater and then you surface to take a sighting of stars or landmarks to see where you are.

I enjoy the creative process of outlining, which I treat as a sort of brainstorming activity. But I do tend to dive into the story as soon as I feel "ready" and not when the outline is done.

Many people complain about how outlining takes the fun out of writing.  It's laborious or boring.  Often the outline doesn't make sense later on, or it's completely lifeless.  And it always changes as you write anyway. Always.  So why put more effort into it than necessary?

This winter, though, I came up with the goofy idea that maybe the problem with outlines is that we don't go far enough.  That we are so eager to jump into the story, that we never actually find the true benefit.

Maybe if I didn't jump straight into writing as soon as I could -- if I resisted that urge to write -- the outline could be a kind of painless first draft.

Not just an exercise in plotting, but a vibrant, exciting storytelling session, that lets me take many paths, and try all my ideas out, and weave together the best ideas, and work out all those problems and small details that stall me later one.

Maybe if I really worked out the whole story ahead of time, every bit of it, then the writing would be like reading it.  I could focus on voice and language and stuff like that.


This sounds like pie in the sky.  It could be a complete and utter disaster, where I waste a whole lot of time, and then get bored and abandon the story altogether.

At the same time, some small part of me says "Hey, this could be a method for those stories you keep abandoning and reviving.  Maybe it's right for part-time, hobby writing.... LET'S TRY IT!"

The Rules For Outline April

RULE 1: Absolutely no writing on the project until the Xtreme Outline is done. 

This rule is actually the only rule.  The whole experiment is founded on the idea of not jumping in and writing too soon.  And also on putting all of my storytelling energy into this outline, which is to be the whole story.  Of course, I can nail down the phrasing of a line or something that is critical to the plot.  Also, if I must, I can write on other projects not involved in the outline project.

Now, I will note that one of the stories I'm working on, In Flight, is partially written -- but stuck.  So in that story's case, this is a test of whether this method can "cure" the story.  I've also written the first quarter or so of the outline on Covet Thy Neighbor, which has already given me some insight into the process.

I'll talk about each of the projects, and why I think this might be a good idea in subsequent update posts. (Link to next Outlining Post: How To Measure Progress.)

In the meantime....

See you in the funny papers.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I would love to do this or adapt this...but this is the worst month for me! Everything is sort of coming to a head this month. I'm hoping I can keep on track with one complete outline and progress on a standalone I'm working on. But your post is inspiring me to keep focus!

The Daring Novelist said...

Maybe you could jump in in May, or June.

Kyra Halland said...

I'm in! I've got author spotlight commitments the next day or so, but after that will be my monthly wrap-up/look ahead post, and I'll set myself a challenge and tweet and hashtag it! Hmm, so many projects to tackle...

The Daring Novelist said...

I think that's why a monthly dare really works best for me. You can tack a week on to the beginning or end, but it's more adaptable than quarterly.