Last week, I finally managed to send off ‘From Here to Nashville’ for its manuscript assessment by the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association). It felt like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders as I left the Post Office and even though I know there will be lots of work to do on it when it comes back, it feels good to have reached this point with my debut novel. I have taken a few days off and had a good rest in the hope that this would leave me feeling refreshed and ready to go today.

The task I have set myself during the eight weeks that I expect my manuscript assessment to be taking place, is to go back to my second novel and straighten it out before I carry on with it and finish the first draft. This novel, called ‘Seeking Approval’, you may remember, is the one I began in NaNoWriMo last November, writing 50,000 words of the story that month. I carried on with it in April at Camp NaNoWriMo and as a result, I now have just over 75,000 words. However, despite writing an outline before I started this second novel, the story veered off quite considerably and I know I have lots of plot-holes already. I stuck to the NaNoWriMo idea of just writing and not editing though and carried on regardless. I have realised though that I can’t continue like that. It’s driving me insane! I have therefore made up my mind not to do the July Camp this year, unless by some miracle, I have sorted the outline and the story so that they are one and the same and I am absolutely confident of where I want the rest of the story to go.

And so begins the long task of writing scene synopses for every chapter so I can see what I’ve actually written and then comparing that to the outline. When I’ve done that, I think I will write a synopsis again, as I did for From Here to Nashville so that I can see where the plot is going wrong. Then I will have to correct what’s wrong before continuing. I am so fed up with myself for having done this again and it’s making me wonder whether NaNoWriMo works for me. I love doing it but unless I can write a decent outline before November, I don’t want to approach my third novel in this ramshackle way. At the moment, I am left feeling like I haven’t really made any progress on the planning front and I now have another novel to try and sort out. Naturally, I have saved lots of articles about it into my Evernote notebook on Outlining and I have already read a few of these, as well as downloading K. M. Weiland’s ‘Outlining Your Novel:Map Your Way to Success’ which comes highly recommended. The only trouble is that I was supposed to read all of these before I started! I have plenty of time though and perhaps I just need to take it one step at a time and not get too hung up about the mess I’m in. I’m still learning, I guess, and I just have to accept that and get started. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading and any tips you could offer will be gratefully received, as always 🙂 Have a good week y’all.


13 Comments on Revising an outline for a novel…again!

  1. I feel your pain! Congratulations on sending off your manuscript though – doesn’t that feel satisfying? We all write in different ways, and you’re right, you should choose what works for you. I always draft out an outline first – not necessarily chapter by chapter, but certainly chunk by chunk. I don’t always stick to it, but I do find it helps me find may way through the novel, especially when you reach those middle sections! Good luck – and I hope to see From Here to Nashville in print some day 🙂

    • Thanks for your reply and encouragement, Kathryn. I do feel relieved that I’ve sent it, definitely. I need outside help to move forward from here! I think the hardest thing is finding a solid way that will work every time, if that’s even possible?! I have achieved very little on the second book today because it all just seems so hard to sort out 🙁 I will get there, I know but it’s hard having to be patient.

    • Thank you very much! I see you are a writer too 🙂 Wishing you lots of luck with it, Marilyn. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to leave a comment.

  2. Hi, Julie!
    I agree with what Kathryn said about chunk by chunk planning, and finding the way that works for you.
    I’m wondering whether a more relaxed way of approaching your novel might be helpful. In your blog, you talked about the things you were supposed to have read before starting on your outline. You also talked about now writing detailed chapter synopses of what you wrote and then comparing them with what you actually wrote.
    Sometimes less is more (sorry about the cliché). 🙁
    Have a careful look at what you actually wrote. It’s possible that taking this as your starting point is the way forward for you, not the original outline. There will be a reason why, when caught up in your novel, you wrote what you wrote. As we write, we get to know our characters and the further into the novel we get, the more ideas we have about what might happen – ideas which spring from the nature of your characters and the situations confronting them.
    The ideas you had when in the throes of writing could be more valid than the original outline and could lead to a very satisfying novel.
    Good luck with your critique!!

    • Thank you, Liz, that’s a very good point. I only managed to go through two chapters today but I was happy with that. The next one will lead me away from what I originally put in my outline though so that will be crunch time. I had been thinking of changing the story back to fit the outline but maybe I shouldn’t be too hasty, as you suggest. I find it so difficult to bring it all together and that’s what I’m expecting to have to work on when I get my ms back from the RNA. Thanks again for your advice. I’ll give it a go 🙂

  3. Planning works so much better than not planning. Every scene, every sentence in the novel should be relevant; how can you (that’s ‘one’, not you personally!) make it so, if you don’t know what’s going to happen? I think it takes a very experienced writer to pull off the ‘just sit there and write what comes out of your head’ method. The more you write, the more you can do this, because you get used to holding a structure of a whole novel in your head, along with being able to judge the pace, etc, but it’s not something I’d advise for a new writer, and I wouldn’t do it entirely ‘off the top of my head’. In the novella I’m currently working on, I’ve done less planning usual, with the result that the re-writing has taken longer than the first draft. Of course you change your mind about stuff as you go along (I thought up a much better ending only last week!), but I still think you need to know where you’re going with each chapter. Glad you agree, and good luck!

    • Thanks for your good advice, as always, Terry. I’m glad we agree on this one too! Thanks for your good luck wishes 🙂

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