Outlining As You Go

So I’m about halfway through my draft of Burning Eden. The book is split into four parts, each with their own mini beginnings and endings. It’s similar to the first couple of drafts, but different in some important ways: this go-around, it’s written completely in first person, and starts in a different place entirely. I just recently finished the second part, and something’s happened to me that also happened just after I finished the first.

I’m one of those people who can write and rewrite and rerewrite until my brain falls out. It’s a tendency I’m trying to curb, and I think I’m stumbling onto a solution that has helped so far. The evening after I finished the first part, I was lying in bed and I began to run through the structure of it in my mind. There were some small flaws and some big ones, and I realized how it would best be restructured. Instead of plowing backwards and rewriting that first part ad nauseum, I made the beginnings of a new outline which had things the way I envisioned would work better.

Because I work mostly with loose outlines open to vast interpretation, my drafts tender to wander off to tangents. My revision outline helped to focus what needed to be conveyed while also incorporating the more important wanders to give a thorough picture of the world of Eden. Though I’ve not gone back through part one yet, I like the look of the outline and think it’ll be much more coherent.

The same thing happened with the second part. There was a major diversion in the middle that I’d not planned for, which engorged the section and made some of it redundant. Towards the end of it, I had a major plot revelation which made so much more sense than the original, but which also made some of part two entirely superfluous. I don’t need to force him to think so much about how beautiful someone is if it no longer makes sense for them to sleep together. So I wrote up a new outline for that part, too, without going back and touching one word of the draft.

After I’m done writing all four parts, I envision having four outlines which will allow in my rewrites and revisions to give it a tighter structure and plot, instead of just deciding that “something doesn’t work” and scrapping it with no clear idea of how I’m going to make it any better.

This isn’t something that I’ve tried before, though now that I’m doing it, it makes pretty obvious sense. The only way to tell how well it’ll work is when, after I’ve finished and let it sit for a month, if the rewrites come out considerably better versions of the story, rather than just different.

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