It’s always nice when you can start out writing a story from your outline and the words flow quickly onto the page. Too bad that doesn’t often (if at all) happen. However, I can usually tweak things as I go along and then smooth out the rough edges of a book in later drafts.
That hasn’t been the case with the latest historical novel I’m working on. It’s the third book in a series and it looks like it will vex me as much as the first book did. So I’ve taken a lesson that I learned in writing the first book to help me with this one.
When I was writing Canawlers 13 years ago, things went pretty well until about the middle of the book. I was still following the outline I had prepared, but the story just didn’t seem right. It held together logically, but things stopped feeling natural about the way the characters were acting. So I sat down with the outline and partial draft and storyboarded the novel. I wrote down each event on postcards and laid them out on my floor. Then I started shuffling some of the events around, rewriting others, tossing a few. In essence, I was creating a new outline.
I had a better feeling about this revision, but it was still missing something. I finally wound up killing off a main character who had lived through the original outline. It was a hard choice, but his death opened up some other opportunities for other characters.
Completing the first draft based on the new outline turned out to be fairly easy. However, if I had continued writing the draft based on the first outline, I would have had to throw most of it away. The changes I made to the outline were so significant, that they affected not only how the story went forward, but everything I had written to that point.
I’m a big believer in writing your way through writer’s block and then fixing later. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, though. You have to be willing to go back to the drawing board and look at your outline with a little more experience. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find the changes I need to make with this new book so that it starts moving forward rather than wallowing around looking for direction.