For the first time in forever, I actually mapped out an entire book. I was re-reading Sleep Suits Irish yesterday and started bouncing back and forth among four or five chapters, trying to figure out where I could insert a key element and where I could fix two other plot points. It all got to be too much, so I decided to chart out the book chapter by chapter, on one long sheet of paper with a brief sentence for each. Worked like magic.
Today I will write the first of two new chapters that should add a completely different flavor to the book and some of its characters and their relationships.
I was also able to pinpoint exactly where I can punch up dialogue, insert character mentions, and generally smooth things out in at least 10 other chapters.
Amazing what a little bit of rough outlining can accomplish.
I’ve never been able to outline a book while I was writing it, because I tend to make up entire references, conversations, and general feelings while I’m writing. It’s not until I’ve written a chapter that I have an idea what can happen next. I mean, sure, I’ve got the overall beats in my head. I know (generally) how a book is going to play out from beginning to end in terms of what I want the story to accomplish. I just can’t reason that far ahead on the details.
However, it’s nice to know that I now have a new arrow in my quiver as far as what I can do at the end of a book (in addition to spell checks and grammar issues, making sure names match up, and making sure plot points aren’t left dangling) before sending it out into the world.
I’m assuming this isn’t a new thing to other writers and their processes, but at least I learn something new every day.