On Outlines and Distractions

You're An Idiot, Starscream

I fell off the proverbial horse yesterday, because I made the mistake of going down the rabbit hole of politics. (Two cliches in one sentence!) A lot has happened, and it feels weird. On the one hand, we have politicians who are blatantly lying; on the other, life marches on regardless. At a bare minimum: bills still come every month, meals still need cooked, house still needs to be cleaned, cats still need to be fed. In my case, I have to be vigilant about how I use my time; I’ve long since learned why it’s important to know how fast I write, how deadlines are crucial to my sanity, and how calendars aren’t just this pretty, little grid with pictures hanging on the wall.

Except, it’s an inevitable truth that shit happens. I get sick, company drops in, the internet goes down, I get distracted by politics (as I did yesterday), I lose a file, a deadline shifts, etc. All the planning and organizing in the world doesn’t get words down on the page, but what it does do it help mitigate disasters.

Take, for example, a novel. If I don’t work on the manuscript every day, which is not realistic for me to do, then a natural gap occurs from when I last worked on it. When I pick it back up again, I have to remind myself where I’m at in the work. That creates lost time that I’ll never get back. If I could, I would shut everything down and pound out a novel in a month or two. But, my reality doesn’t allow me to do that(1), at least right now.

Enter outlining as a solution. I’ve already been using them for bigger projects like non-fiction books and tabletop games, but I haven’t been drawn to them for fiction because they seem too mechanical. Once I’m immersed in writing a story, it’s impossible for me to get out of that mindset. I don’t have to think about what I’m writing, because I’m in that character’s head and thinking about the story from their POV.

The only problem with being resistant to outlines is that if I get interrupted–which is almost a certainty–then I lose that momentum. I cannot control that natural “flow”, but I can plan for distractions. Now, I’m starting to embrace outlining as a solution, because it allows me to jump back in faster than if I were to re-read everything I wrote.

I haven’t quite sorted out which outlining method I want to use and adapt to my own needs yet. LitReactor has a neat little article called 8 Ways to Outline a Novel that collates some of my thoughts on this. Right now, I’m neck deep in getting everything organized and setting aside time to, uh, track my worldbuilding efforts and read more.

I’m not sure if this would be a solution for you, but some form of tracking is definitely something to think about–especially if you are interrupted umpteen million times throughout the day like I am.

(1) That’s part of the reason why I cannot afford to go to long workshops like Clarion. Besides the cost of attendance, it’s time away from work that I desperately need right now.

    Mood: Winter is still here.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Quadruple
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Half an hour
    In My Ears: DREDD soundtrack
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Dr. Potter’s Medicine Show
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Pacific Rim
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: In Volo’s Wake for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update. New project update coming this month!





Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

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