Lots of comments on Write Despite lately about the peril of the early process, about how difficult it is to get a project off the ground without falling into despair. Let me add my voice and suggestions to the fray—for what they’re worth.
At this early stage in the new novel process, I’m struggling to silence my internal editor (IE.) You know the IE. It’s that needling, little voice that delights in pointing out what ISN’T working in your manuscript.
This is not the time for criticism. I first need to get my arms around what IS working. And it doesn’t take long, when I’m feeling my way into a new project, to realize that structure is central. It’s not an easy concept to wrap your mind around because structure is so complex and works on so many different levels. Here’s a blog post I recently stumbled upon that spells out the basics pretty succinctly:
Outlining is one thing that helps me map out a long project. I tend to do two types of outlines. One is the overall, broadly sketched arc of the narrative with the beginning, the middle and the end marked, as well as the major plot points and scenes that occur in each section and drive the narrative engine forward. The overall is something that I fill in slowly as the pieces of the storyline fall into place and the book progresses.
The other type of outline is nothing more than a hastily assembled sketch or list of essential points I want to cover in a given chapter or chapters. It’s a micro-outline that gets me from scene to scene and then from chapter to chapter, connecting the dots as I go.
At the end, I stand back and see if I’m getting from beginning to middle to end in a compelling way. That’s when the rewriting starts, and the IE gets to speak up. She always has a lot to say, but you know what? It’s not all bad, and you can’t ask anymore than that of a first draft.