Tuesday, May 28, 2019

How to Write a Book in 15 Days: Filling in the Plot Holes (Day 2)

Salutations, my curious congregation. Last Thursday I started a kind of experimental project trying to write a book in 15 days. I'm going to be talking about my personal experience with this process, but mostly it's going to be about what to do on Day 2.

In this case, refining your outline.

Content Warnings: A healthy dose of irreverence, probably some swearing, and mild risk of dramatic music playing in the background while you make operatic eye contact with one of your enemies in a melodramatic situation.

So Day 2 is for refining your outline. Look through, find all the plot holes, tighten those up as best as you can, and poise yourself to roll with it the next day. At this point the general events I had outlined in the first entry here start to lose their shape--but that's okay. Those exist to get plot to run with on paper. Day 2 is about making sure that plot works.

Take an hour to read and think about your outline. What parts, now that you're looking at it with fresh eyes, don't make any sense? In my case I had a huge plot hole. What did my villain want? If she's going to be causing all this trouble there ought to be a reason for it.

Figuring out the answer to that changed the face of my whole storyline. It's still going to read basically the same way, but I ended up adding four scenes in the process and tweaking some of my beats.

Speaking of which, once you've checked your plot over for major holes, and patched the ones you've found, outlining beats can be helpful to the next step. Personally, I went through and broke each scene into 8 250 word chunks and made notes for myself as to vaguely what should be happening at each of those points.

What I've noticed about this is that it gives me a roadmap and makes me slow down on my first draft and include more descriptive details. It's also making me consider my dialogue a little more carefully, and I think the result is turning out more layered than my dialogue has been in the past.

Again, it's not a bible. You should leave yourself some wiggle room. If something isn't working, don't do it. But it should help you find your feet if you lose your stride. I'm writing about Day 2 but for me it's Day 4.

Some of you might have noticed I said 4 and it should be 5. That's because I gave myself a mental health day yesterday, because I am more important than my manuscript. I love doing crazy shit and pushing myself to hit my word count, it makes me feel good about myself when it works, but that's not a bible either. Account for your mental health.

If you're dealing with a real deadline, schedule yourself one mental health a week by design. It makes you more productive in the long run when you're taking care of you.


General Tips for Word Sprints:
-Get a beverage before you start writing.
-If you're having trouble hitting the whole 5k at once (or even if it's just 500 for you), break it into pieces and do it in quarters. I generally find 1250 words is good for one sprint.
-Especially in the outlining process, go somewhere quiet. Or quiet enough for you. It's hard to look at the bigger picture of a plotline if people keep trying to talk to you and breaking your focus. Or maybe that's just me.

Fortune Favors,
Megan R. Miller

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