Novel Timelines and Outlines

I’m on day four of my novel writing adventures. Yes, we are two weeks into January and I’m supposed to be on day 15. This whole novel writing thing is going kind of blah. Strangely enough (considering I work in a bookstore and read tons,) I’m trying to remember how novels are put together.

So what did I do? I read a novel. That’s what I keep reading about novel writing. Writers Digest in their January issue suggested reading to foster writing skills. I also read the same tip in the book Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg.  I was trying to focus on the technical aspects of writing but I got completely absorbed by the storyline at some point.

But my biggest concern with novel writing turned out to be the timeline.  I never really noticed that novels follow nearly every waking moment of the character. Of course, there are time jumps, but they are so carefully crafted that you don’t really notice. And since my novel is going to encapsulate two different periods of time, or shall I say two different timelines–maybe, I would suppose the timeline thing is important.

And you would think, an outline could be fantastically helpful. I’m not a big fan of outlines. They tend to trap me and make writing feel like work. Sometimes when I sit down, I don’t really know what’s coming next. I tend to surprise myself, and what I come up with IMHO is pretty solid. If I follow an outline, I’ll have to force myself to write something I may no longer find interesting or relevant. Or even feel like writing at the moment. Now you may just say, well the outline is just a guideline, you can stray and adjust. I guess, but then what’s the point? So the closest thing I’ll get to an outline is scraps of paper, iPhone notes, and emails to myself of new ideas for my story, hastily written as they came to me. (Can’t you tell, I’m a panster)

So I’m moving along on the story. Last night I wrote about 900 words. Major progress considering I haven’t typed a word in 13 days. What I noticed in the book I read is how I was continually surprised. It’d be going along quite nicely, and then all of a sudden, BAM, didn’t see that coming. Characters in novels have chronic bad luck. I guess real life is like that. There is always a new problem when things finally seem to be moving along very well.

And that’s what I learned.

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