Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Importance of Writing Outlines...I'm Glad I Did!- Part One

I've been writing for over a year and a half and have learned so much! When I sit back and think about all the information I've gained and the improvements made, it still amazes me.

When I started my writing career, I did it by checking out several books on writing from my local library. All were very informative. Here are a few:    
  • So You Want to Write, by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood
  • Twenty Master Plots and How to Build Them, by Ron Tobias
  • This Year You Write Your Novel, by Walter Mosley
  • Your First Novel, by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb
  • Mastering Point Of View, Sherri Szeman
  • Make A Scene, by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
  • G.M.C.: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, by Debra Dixon 

I learned what types of scenes were found in a book, the three parts of a book, Acts one, two, and three. I learned how to write and develop characters. I also learned that writing story outlines was also important to building a good story.

But did I do it? Not really. I can't lie, I hate going overboard in details. I felt like I didn't need to do it because I had the whole story in my head. Yep, a few notes, no more than ten sheets of paper, were all I needed. The results? I wrote my first story in three months. The second and third stories were also completed in three months. I thought that was amazing. I had it all figured out, I was ready to move to the next step....publication!

Yeah right.

One of the books I read suggested that as a new writer, it is beneficial to join a writers group. Having other writers of various levels of experience read my work would help make sure my story and characters were strong and made sense. The first group I joined led me to a wonderful group of people, a playwright, and several published authors. I attended a local Writers Conference (something I advise everyone to do at least once!) and again meet wonderful writers in various stages of their careers and received great advice.

Later, I attended a Writer's Workshop at my favorite library and meet great authors, Chicki Brown and Chesya Burke. Both authors have just published new books. (For information on Chicki Brown's books, see previous post, New Books By New Authors...Check Them Out!). After meeting Mrs. Brown, I was invited to join her on-line critique group. Oh yeah, I knew I was headed somewhere now! I happily posted the first few chapters of my first book, the one I knew was ready to go....and crashed and burned. LOL.
The ladies of my critique group are very honest and quickly advised me that my storyline needed more work. I had a great opening Prologue, and the dialogue and characters were wonderful...but the story started to lag after chapter three. Talk about being humbled. I quickly scraped the story (figuratively...after three months I wasn't about to throw it away!), went back to the drawing board and tried again. After various attempts of starting a new story, I was still told I needed to work on making the storyline stronger.

Man was I frustrated! After reevaluating my decision to write, I stepped away for a month. It nearly drove me crazy not writing anything! I knew then writing was something I seriously wanted to do. So, I took a Writer's Workshop at my community college in February. The teacher, Valarie Clark, is a published author/agent. From her, I learned the importance of finding a writing platform and once again, that dreaded outline. Outlining the story will help with writing the manuscript.

So.....I spent a few days trying to figure out what to do. What, exactly, was my genre? What was my writing platform? Who were my characters? What were their motivations, likes and dislikes???? What was my target audience?

Thinking about where to go with my writing was a confusing couple of days. Then, one day after talking to one of my critique partners, I got struck by creative lightning. Decisions on who my characters were and how to tell their story flooded me. The next morning I grabbed pen and paper and started that dreaded outline.

"So what are you doing now?" you may ask. And I'll tell you....on my next post, The Importance of Writing Outlines, Part Two on Friday.

Till then, Write On!