Hey Teacher, Follow Your Own Lesson.

I’ve mentioned before that I used to teach middle school Language Arts. I absolutely LOVED that age group and loved working with students as we navigated literature and experimented with writing. Call me crazy, but reading my middle schooler’s creative writing pieces was one of my favorite things to grade.

As I worked on my novel this week, I am embarrassed to say that I did more staring at the computer and editing what had been written than actually writing new material that I desperately need to get on paper. Why? Because I didn’t follow one of my own basic lessons in writing that I had taught hundreds of times.

Gulp. I am ashamed to admit it. But, I never made an outline for this novel. 

Seriously, Tiffany? It seems so simple and cliché to make an outline. But I always do it because it works. This past week, I spent so much staring at my computer because, honestly, I was overwhelmed with how much work I needed to do and I didn’t have a clear direction on where I needed to go. I had written the meat of the story and the chapters that have made the necessary cuts are the chapters that are the BIG moments. They are the ones that I have loved from the beginning and are the heart of the story. However, without a clear guideline (or in this case, an outline) I was struggling to get from poignant moment 1 to poignant moment 2. I needed to organize my multiple narrators, I needed to organize events, and I needed to organize the time of the year in which those events take place (since the entire novel spans one year).

In case you were wondering, my outline for one season of the book looks something like this:

Fall (Season 2):
Patrick: Fall/October break with his daughters 
Car ride with Tara 
Hardware store
Ends on swing – “city girl with those dirty feet”
Tara (protagonist): Same weekend
Smaller conflict with Josh that feeds into the next chapter 
Talks of the future
Josh (boyfriend): Thanksgiving break
Bar Scene with his brother
Bad bet
Fight with Tara
Molly (mother): TBD
Patrick: December 
Being the best kind of man 
Patrick’s childhood Christmas 
This Christmas 
Something isn’t quite right…
Josh: The Next Day
Grim Diagnosis
Secret plans 
Rushed proposal
Mia (sister): Close to Christmas
Local coffee shop
Confrontation and concern
This is the part of the book is the second chunk (fall season) that has the most on paper. The green chapters are the chapters that are “done” for the rough draft round. The red chapter has been started, but isn’t quite finished for round one. I haven’t started the blue chapters and need to! There is hardly any description because it really depends on decisions I make in the first chunk (summer) and the third chunk (winter). I have some ideas written down, but I’ll keep those to myself for now.

Do yourself a favor, writers. Just get organized. Get a plan. Get a schedule. If you don’t have a plan, you will plan to fail. And before you know it, days and weeks and months will go by and you will be no closer to reaching the goal of having a completed manuscript. 

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