Let’s play a game. It’s called Writing A Well-Written Book In The Least Amount Of Time Game.
Rule 1: Don’t worry about your book’s theme. Seriously, don’t even think about the book’s theme or any other stuff that takes major thinking and causes the most headaches. Trust me, it won’t matter if you try now or later. I will teach you how to make your theme better after you’ve reached a certain level of clarity.
Rule 2: When I say you aren’t allowed to make changes, I mean it. Don’t do it.
Step 1: Write an outline, study it for early-on mistakes, and then write out the entire body of the book (even after realizing you have made a mistake in your outline, you should continue to write the rest of the book out in one-paragraph-per-chapter form if you’ve already started), and do not make changes from the outline. Put your ideas explaining how to change your story on a separate sheet of paper until you’ve finished the full body.
Before you write a book, or you are getting ready to do NaNoWriMo, you need to prepare a rough draft of what you want to write, in the form of an outline. Write the outline out, chapter by chapter, using one-line sentences. So to not waste more time, you can see if the plot is actively moving during this first stage, instead of later down the road, when it gets very confusing. The more that you can clear up now, the better chance of you finishing and not rage quitting after a bunch of headaches and heartaches.
If you didn’t look too hard at your first outline and are already writing, you’ll be doing more rewrites than what you could’ve avoided. But don’t worry – that’s the fun of writing!
Once you start writing your first draft, you’re not allowed to skew from the outline you’ve prepared. Why? Until you write the whole story out (even if its single-paragraph chapters the rest of the way through because you’re already hating your book), you won’t have any body to guide off of. You might have good ideas for changes after writing the first two chapters, and you might be very tempted to rewrite an outline and rewrite chapters to fit it. But this kind of approach leads to unorganized thought, unorganized documentstion of what you’ve improved and what you want to improve, which can get you lost somewhere down the road. Sometimes, this leads to an unfinished manuscript, so make sure to always finish what you set out to do.
Waiting to make changes will guarantee a better chance at finishing a book (because you’re actually writing the whole book), than if you kept making changes outside your outline, spending most of your time rewriting outlines instead of writing your book. There needs to be a balance between time spent note-taking and time spent writing. Place any ideas you get on a page in your journal labeled Changes One, away from your book. Let them sit and rest, and don’t make any changes to your book’s current state until you’ve written out all of outline1.
The No-Touch approach also forces more ideas to come out of your head, filling the misc. ideas page, and coincidently, your book – a detailed, and organized book.
Step 2: Write a second outline that is more organized than the first (if ‘organized’ doesn’t describe your second outline, you didn’t do it right). Adjust your written-out first draft accordingly. Don’t spend too much time writing notes, do not spend any time at all revising grammar, and do not go off course from your new outline. Stay focused.
After the first draft is written out, you can finally make that second outline you’ve been dying to draft. Take your time – make sure you read all your misc. notes that correlated to the changes of your first draft carefully. Anything else that doesn’t relate to the plot directly stays in MICS.
Change your outline1 into outline2. Outline2 will have a better plot line (which means movement-in-story). It will have a better grasp of a beginning, middle, and end, and will move smoother and quicker than outline1. Also, it will take the same process to write out as outline1 did.
Work on top of your first written draft – add chapters, fill the chapters you’ve left as paragraphs in, etc. You will know if your chapters are comfortably ready to be written out in long page form when you’re personally excited about writing them – because the plot is so interesting. Since this is only outline2, the second addition to your first draft, there still might be a handful of chapters left as paragraphs because they don’t interest you as much. As long as you write everything you need to fit outline2 and continue to not make changes to your story until completed, you’re staying on course. Again, don’t make changes, and use a new page in your journal labeled Changes Two to place all your future changes there. Make sure to move your old misc ideas over, and then leave all of this to sit. It’s much less time consuming if you are writing your book, and not a book of notes. I know at this stage, your notes are more interesting than your book, which is why you are so tempted to write them all the time – but don’t do that. You need to focus on your book in book-mode.
Tip: If you spend the most time with your notes in the redrafting-of-outline and transferring-notes-over stage – you will save a lot of time. Focusing on them all at once with your updated draft complete will give you more focus to understand your notes better, and you’ll have less headaches. Ideas that come up during book-writing-mode should be made into key words, clear enough to understand, but short enough to keep your time focused on finishing updating your draft.
Step 3: Repeat this outline-then-draft process over and over, until you have a strong plot line that readers will love. This will be the closest thing to a finalized, first-draft outline that you can share with others (it’s more like your fourth or fifth outline, but you can keep that to yourself). At the same time, you’ve also produced the correlating first draft that goes with your worked-out outline. It’s your REAL FIRST DRAFT of a story (even if it’s really your fourth or fifth, as well).
When you finally find the perfect outline, and have the perfect first draft of your story, you’re ready to work on the more important things, like theme.
But before you do that, there is one more thing I want to clear up.
When I say you will have an interesting, well written story, I mean you will have an interesting, well written plot line (movement-in-story). This means that you had a fantastic time writing each of your chapters and you fell like they are moving together marvelously, organization-wise.
I’m not talking about the poeticness of each word, nor am I talking about grammar or spelling, or anything that makes the reader think you got your book professionally edited.
I’m talking about the fun exciting plot, and the stories inside each chapter – the outline and rough draft that at all times is interesting for the readers, and yourself. If you don’t feel this way yet, don’t worry, you are probably still on outline1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., and are over-reading this. Just reading this and feeling the opposite might make you feel discouraged, but that only helps you find out where you are in this process, which is that you still need to work on your outline.
Another thing that you have to realize before you move onto theme is how confident you are with your story. How long have you been working on your book? Months? Weeks? But you still feel like your book is out of shape? That’s either because you took too many notes and adjusted too many times, which filled up most of your months writing, instead of finishing your drafts all the way through. Or, you still have plot holes in your story, which means you need to really think hard about what is going on in your outline. Fix these things and see if your confidence has improved.
If you feel like you are doing everything right, remember that a good book will take a year or more to reach its full potential. Don’t go off of how long you’ve been working, even if its been a long time. If you’ve been focused, and have known what times to pay attention to notes and what timed to write your book, your outline and first draft won’t be decent until about six months, which is half of what the finished product will take. Every story is different, and you should remember yours might take longer to create. Knowing this will help you prepare yourself for the next stage.
Change In Game Announcement: After you are confident with your first draft of an outline and manuscript, you are now allowed to think about your theme. It is now allowed – but only with the correct methods of going about it.
Ways to mess up your theme:
1. You didn’t listen to me, and you’ve been thinking about how to make your theme apparent in your book this whole time, instead of staying focused on writing your first draft.
2. After your first draft is written, you go through your book and try to change your chapters here and there where you feel is correct, without looking at the big picture – more like you are making random updates throughout and skipping over less noticeable mistakes.
3. Your changes aren’t actually productive, and don’t improve your theme in the long run.
The Correct Way To Make A Book Have Greater Meaning
Here we go – take out your journal again. For each of your chapters, write a paragraph summary of what is going on. Include how each chapter relates to, at least, one other chapter and how the chapter is important to your story. Then, write down some kind of theme that carries over in the chapter. If the chapter doesn’t have a lot going on in it, write what kind of theme comes out of the connection it has to another chapter. Be truthful with your theme judgments. In fact, try to write down the most negative truth there is about each of your chapters, because that will only make your changes stronger.
From there, look at all your themes. Is there one theme that shows up a lot during your analysis? If so, that’s your books supposed theme, with a few random ones thrown in here and there. Better question: Is that the theme/meaning you want your readers to take from your book?
The usual answer is no, if you were truthful with your judgments. If yes, you still have room for improvement. But that’s okay. In your journal, take the easy step of writing down what is wrong with your chapters, theme-wise, underneath your summary and theme analysis. Underneath all of that, write down how can you change them. Review your notes on changes you want to make for every chapter, and, one more time, make sure everything that will change fits together.
Since your story already flows from all the work you have done with plot, and you’ve learned how to keep a story interesting from the experience, the process will be much easier when tweaking your book for the desired theme. Get ready to produce another outline to help you.
Big things with reactions and event changes might alter the meaning completely, in your favor. Little changes, like in the atmosphere or mood of your chapters might build up to a drastic change, as well. Remember that the more you can repeat the theme, the more stronger it will be in the end.
With your new outline, apply the changes to the original, ‘perfect’, first draft of a manuscript. This might require a few chapters to be changed, but that’s why your first draft was called a draft. However, the changes will be much easier to make, especially with the book already written out. You don’t have to rewrite a whole manuscript, but maybe just its ending, or a few chapters in the middle. If you think about it, how long will it actually take you to write one chapter, if your new outline demands it? One more day of writing is totally do-able, especially since you already know what’s going on in the rest of your book. That privilege wasn’t there when you were first writing all those chapters, but now, it’s a shoulder to lean on.
After all of this, you now have a second draft of your manuscript, with a promising theme and plot line. If you want to be super careful, write another outline and make more changes.
Step 5: Revise your book more thoroughly with grammar and spelling, giving you a well-written third, almost final draft. At this point, you are ready to work with a professional editor to work towards that publishable manuscript.
Here is my vlog that correlates to the information I’ve already presented:
Alright! That was a big chunk of information to take in. I’m probably going to apply some of this to my own story very soon. I hope you all found the material useful, and keep following my blog to see more writing tips I have in store for the near future!
Thanks for reading everyone, and don’t forget to keep writing!
Where you can find my books: http://www.amazon.com/Brista-Drake/e/B00YZGC792/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/writingmime