Explorations in Uncharted TerritoryPosted: July 9, 2012
Note to Readers: Due to a lack in Internet access, it has been way more than a week since my last post. This post is one that I had written, but was unable to post in a timely manner. I apologize to readers for my extended absence, but things should get back on track now. I hope you will bear with me.
Those who have been following this blog recently know that I have been using Beth Barony’s Adventures in Writing to develop my own writing skills. While doing the exercises from her book, I have discovered that I am just not an outline type of writer. I began by trying to make an outline for a story that I’ve been rolling around in my head. It soon occurred to me that I really don’t know how to make an outline for a story. In my opinion, it is better to use a story arc or a timeline to illustrate how events will unfold. That’s not to say that I am particularly adept at making story arcs, but I think that I will probably learn to use that skill when I start working on my MFA in Creative Writing through Western State, in July.
To me, an outline is more appropriate for nonfiction, so I decided to start over and do an outline for a nonfiction book that I have been researching for, and have already begun writing. Before beginning my outline, I decided to go back and take a look at what I had previously written and I realized that I actually had some pretty good stuff that was mostly usable. I didn’t end up with an outline, but I did write a new introduction and rewrite my original introduction as a chapter, instead. In the midst of all this, I started thinking that perhaps what I needed wasn’t an outline, per se, but some basic organization. So, I also created a basic table of contents with what I have so far, (which is sort of like an outline), listing the chapter titles that I have so far. It turns out that I already have seven partial chapters and now I have them better organized both in my mind, and in print.
Thus, I chose to set aside the fiction story to work on as I earn my MFA and use Adventures in Writing to develop and hone my nonfiction book. It should be an interesting exploration into uncharted territory for me. It presents a good challenge, as Barony suggests allowing a year to completion for first book writers, and my timeline allows for about seven weeks, as I want to finish before I begin graduate school. She offers a Project Timeline Chart in the Appendix for those that wish to finish their books in 8-12 weeks, so I think it might be possible to accomplish this if I stick to the time and word count goals that I set for myself in the exercises. Rewriting makes it difficult to measure word count, but I have faithfully put in more than my minimum daily time that I set as my goal thus far. Barony also suggests listing five to twelve main events that happen, (or in my case points that I want to make), stating that if you can’t list at least five, that perhaps you should be writing an article or short story instead. To my surprise, (and pleasure), I found that my five points from the exercise, together with my seven chapter titles, and the subsections that I had already broken some of my chapters into, made up a book structure that actually resembles an outline. Huh? Maybe I am an outline writer after all.