How to Know When You’re Going Overboard

  • Your outline is nearing 30 pages (single-spaced!) and you still feel no closer to knowing the heart of your story than you did before.
  • That instead of making a nice orderly list with bullet points as you have here, you have almost entire scenes sketched out, bits of dialogue, asides into outer space, name-dropping like a banshee. This is an outline, not a draft of the novel. There is a difference.
  • You have 50 ideas for new plot events and if you wrote all of them, you’d be writing the YA version of War and Peace.
  • You realize you could do this forever—plan out novels in ever-widening circles but never write the novels, that planning is not writing and the longer you take to plan the less time you have to write.
  • That it’s Wednesday and you were supposed to turn this in on Monday—simple as that.

2 responses to “How to Know When You’re Going Overboard”

  1. Yikes. You can outline? The last time I could outline was in highschool for term papers. I can’t even outline a major policy speech for a client, let alone a novel. I accidently wrote the climax of the novel I’m currently hawking, and it paralyzed me for a week.

    I do keep notes to make sure I tie up loose ends, answer questions asked earlier, and raise issues I may want to fiddle with later–but an outline? I’m impressed.

  2. Unfortunately—or is it fortunately?—an outline is required for this assignment. I guess they don’t trust me. Which makes sense… I might suddenly want to write about circus folks or mole people or mountain lions and change the whole story! (Hmmm…. got me thinking…)

    Good luck with your novel! Maybe writing the climax ahead of time will turn out to be a happy accident in the end?

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