Outlining to Produce a More Fulfilling Writing Experience

My past two posts on writing/self-publishing have been written on a downward note, so I think it’s about time to write something positive.

A little less than a month ago I started writing the second book in my series, and it has been going spectacularly well. So well in fact, there were a few days I was convinced that what I was writing was absolute garbage–that it had to be if I was writing it as fast as I was.

I’ve written several book length things to completion, as I’ve said before, but only one of them–in my opinion–was good enough to continue working on, and call a book. Each one was a struggle to get through, taking many months or even years to complete, but it’s gotten easier, and I think I can tell you a part of the reason why.

Firstly, the book that’s with the editor currently, Dreaming Beyond Gaia, I have written a total of three times. The first time I wrote the book it took about seven months, and when I was finished I put it away and didn’t come back to it until two years later. When I did come back, what I found was a mess, but not a disaster, and I thought I could make it work if I re-wrote the first 10,000 words or so.

I started to do that, but quickly found that the new stuff I was writing was much, much better, and changed the story in such a big way that I decided to re-write the entire book. The general journey of the characters stayed the same, however, so I had something of an outline to work with, and that made things infinitely easier. Before this re-write I had never worked with an outline before. I would generally get an idea for a book, tinker around with it a bit, and then just start writing. That method produced some terribly frustrating days.

Quick side note, I was listening to an episode of The Self-Publishing Podcast this morning, and they pointed out that doing continual re-writes can be a pitfall if you keep doing it over and over again as a way to never put anything out. I think that can certainly be true, and is something to watch out for.

Anyway, It was around this time that I discovered Scrivener, which turned out to be one of the greatest tools/assets I have ever discovered in all of my years of writing. This program is phenomenal for outlining and building a book to completion, and has forever changed the way I write.

I discovered it because of a post from author Michael J. Sullivan that you can check out here. It’s a great post on the basics of the program, and how one might go about using it.

So last spring I took a week off from work and spent the first entire day building a complete outline into the program, using Sullivan’s post as a guideline, and tweaking things to better support my own needs.

It worked wonders, and I was finished with this new draft before the summer was over.

To make a long story a bit shorter, I went back through this new draft several months later, and did a few more substantial re-writes (although not another full re-write). It was much simpler using Scrivener to plan out what needed to change ahead of time.

Then, back in February, I began to seriously work on the next book in the series, which I’m currently writing now. I spent a solid two months doing nothing but outlining, writing histories of various things, and building maps, all of which I was able to put into my Scrivener doc. The extra time, effort, and planning has paid off wonderfully.

I’ve been writing for almost a month now and I’m already 30,000 words in, and show no signs of slowing down. I’ve been able to produce roughly 1,200 words a day, give or take.

My point is that, for me, outlining works wonders. This is the first time I’m writing a book with one and I’m loving it. The experience is much more fulfilling, I’m having more fun, and I’m able to get a lot more on the page, in a much smaller amount of time.

I try hard with this blog to talk about what works for me, rather than telling other writers what they should do.Outlining may not be the answer for everyone, but if you’re a writer, and you’re currently stuck, I’d say it’s worth a shot. Download the free trial of Scrivener, plug in what you’ve got, and make an outline for the rest.

It’s worked wonders for me, maybe it will for you too.

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