If you’ve followed me very long, you’ve probably realized I’m pretty Type A. I’ve been accused of being intense, over-structured, and the Energizer Bunny, notwithstanding these last six months of getting less done, which you can read about HERE if you must 😉
I am a huge believer in outlining, character studies, writing-from-once-upon-a-time-until-the-end, and one-pass revision. So one day when I was out walking the dogs and had my digital recorder in hand, I pressed record and starting talking. But not just any talk. I talked my way through a twenty thousand-word novella, a prequel to the What Doesn’t Kill You series. Without any outlines. Without any character studies. Without any planning at all. I had no idea what I was going to say or what I would be saying it about.
And it felt freeing. It felt right, for right then.
It was my second foray into digitally recording my drafts, so I was better at that part at least. Still, as I talked my way through it, I ran into obstacles. I hadn’t written Ava, Laura, or Maggie points of view yet. I waffled back and forth between first and third person, past and present tense, simplicity and complexity, accent and diction, as I experimented on the fly with my women. I struggled as I wrote a mystery without knowing who the bad guy would be, and what red herrings and clues to drop.
When I got the first draft back in written form, it was a hot mess. I could totally see why outlining first was my usual methodology!! And guess what I ended up having to do? Write character studies on the new women, who I thought I knew well from their supporting roles in earlier novels, but of course, it turned out, that wasn’t nearly enough to put them in the drivers’ seats. Possibly because it was only 20% as long as my novels, I found revising the plot line easier than I’d expected. I had fun re-immersing myself in characters whose minds I hadn’t dived into for awhile.
And I discovered a big surprise: my beta readers loved Laura and Maggie! They already knew they enjoyed the other protagonists (Katie, Emily, Michele, and Ava), because they’d gotten to know them very well. Their notes and comments about the new women were immensely gratifying.
The story behind the story of Act One, thus, is that this old dog is learning a couple of new tricks, turning over new leaves. And to keep it with cliches, I put the cart before the horse, and what didn’t kill me made me stronger 😉 Also, I found out I could write something shorter than a novel and pull off a complete mystery.
It was liberating . . . and I can’t wait to get back to OUTLINING my next novel, write after I finish my CHARACTER STUDIES!!!!
p.s. If you want to get your hands on Act One, the only way to do it is to subscribe to my monthly newsletter, as this novella is exclusive (and free) to subscribers.