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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great Adventures in Prequeldom: When Outlines Fight Back

I promised that I would blog about the experience of banging my head against my laptop…um, I mean writing my prequel. And since I am a glorious, fantastic, drop-down-on-my-knees-and-give-praise 20,000 words into the prequel, I think I’m ready to dispel with the words of wisdom.

The process of getting from “staring at the blank page before me” to 20K goes a little something like this:

Prequel, How Not To Lose Sanity While Writing

Step 1 – Break book into acts. The first 20,000 words for me represent Act 1. It’s just like a play. I put an initiating incident and mini climax into each act as I build to the ultimate climax and dénouement at the end. For this book, I have three acts planned.

Step 2 – Stare at your pretty outline with three clearly defined, color-coded acts and feel proud. This is particularly important for me because I’m not an outliner, so I expect applause and a standing ovation for this feat.

Step 3
– Place bulletin board with clearly defined, color-coded acts in front of your husband’s dresser so every time he has to open a drawer, he has to move it. Share the pain.

Step 4 – Transfer the clearly defined, color-coded notes for Act 1 into an artist sketchbook in “Mind Map” format and keep sketchbook by laptop while writing. This is where I add additional color-coded notes to the outline to identify things I’ve changed while writing. (I change a lot. Outlines are made to be broken.)

Step 5 – Watch a rerun of Buffy and marvel at the awesome dialogue. “Make with the happy, people.”

Step 6 – Write first chapter. Read first chapter. Rewrite first chapter. Read first chapter. Repeat, repeat, repeat. (I don’t know why but I always spend a lot of time reworking Chapter Numero Uno before I move on. It sets the whole tone of the book—the voice, the characters, the everything. It’s important.)

Step 7
– Force yourself to write between 1,500 to 3,000 words per day while listening to the Adult Alternative channel on Comcast Cable.

Step 8
– Dance. No joke. You pound out 3,000 words that day, you stand up and you dance. Trust me on this.

(Yes, all I could find on Youtube was a video with Asian subtitles.)

I’m still coming out of my Olympic coma and checking out what’s been on TV since before the days of snowboard cross and men’s free skates. And I just caught my first episode of this season’s American Idol. Yeah, not good. I saw the guy’s Top Ten. Or that’s what they claimed, though the only one worth a mention was the David Cook sound-alike at the end. The rest—in the words of Simon— were either “utterly forgettable” or “self indulgent.” A couple actually tried to take Marvin Gaye and Tina Turner songs and “make them better.” Um, yeah, good luck with that.


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