Note To Self–Be Careful When Writing

To outline or not to outline?

If you’d asked me this question a month ago, I would have spoken out against outlining. “It wrecks my creative process!” I would say. “It’s not how I write.”

I’m beginning to doubt myself.

My current manuscript, Devil May Care, started out as a short story. It’s over 100,000 words right now, so that didn’t really work out.

That’s okay. I like it as a novel. I’m glad it became a novel.

But I had no idea what I was doing as it grew and grew, expanding from short story to novella to novel. I was just writing.

I love doing that. I’m still not a fan of outlining.

However, not outlining is costing me down the road. I’m editing that fateful first draft right now. Without an outline to reference, I have to go through and map out ever scene in the book. I touched on my process for this in an earlier post. I’m not going to get into it again.

Here’s what I know:

My second draft will be written with an outline. I even intend to stick to that outline. I’ll have to adjust my writing process. I know this.

I stand by not outlining the first draft. I had no plot, and I need 100,000 words and hundreds of hours to figure one out. I always start writing with a vague idea, and let the plot come after, as I explore characters and situations. That was the purpose of my first draft.

first draft sandbox

I’m learning the benefits and drawbacks of not outlining.

Specifically, I’m learning that if you don’t outline, you need to leave really good Notes To Self. While recording the scenes in draft one, I found a really crucial series of days in which I had completely skipped over a weekend. It went Mon-Tues-Wed-Thurs-Fri…and then just continued the school week. I couldn’t just add in the weekend, not the way the days strung together.

Considering this problem, I have a vague memory of First Draft Me punting the problem down the road. I remember that I had a solution in mind. I just don’t remember what that solution was.

It’s probably written down somewhere. But I use almost half a dozen different ways to write down notes. I have a ColorNote app on my phone. I have Evernote across my phone and my laptop. I have Sticky Notes on my laptop’s desktop. I have a notebook that is barely organized at all. I have a stack of papers of notes I’ve made in the middle of the night on the notepad I keep by my desk.

screenshot desktop
Here’s what my desktop looks like right now. Like the sticky notes?

The problem is, I get ideas everywhere. I write down these ideas in different ways depending on where I am.

I’m going to try to consolidate all of these note-taking devices into one large document, probably an Evernote. But it’s going to take a lot of time, and I’m certain that along the way I’ve lost tons of ideas and Notes to Self I wrote.

Writing Lesson for today:

If you’re going to write a note to yourself, don’t lose it.

note to self pic

Kinda obvious, but I didn’t follow it.

Has anyone else struggled with this? Do you guys have any way to keep all of your random sparks of genius in order?

4 thoughts on “Note To Self–Be Careful When Writing

  1. I’ve been writing since high school (I’m now in my mid-20s) and I have abandoned many-a-manuscript due to not outlining, or planning really of any kind, and writing myself into a dead end. Definitely need to outline! Pinterest has a LOT of good writing advice, especially on different ways to plot outline. Check it out! 🙂


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