The Daily Grind

I’ve been feeling a bit morose about my writing lately. I’ve been doing it religiously–even when I’m so sick (now) that I can barely keep my protagonists straight from my antagonists–five minutes a day, always. But I find myself opening Scrivener, finding an appealing section of my outline to embellish, and jumping in. The problem is, while I *am* writing real content with the intention of finding out what my story is about in all its nuanced glory, I also feel like I’m kinda bullshitting.

For example, tonight I did some writing about the various countries/continents/peoples that inhabit the world of The Unchosen. I discussed how they were similar to various countries and ethnicities that people our world, and that having more than the main countries around–in the periphery of my story–is necessary to make the world my story is set in seem more authentic.

After writing for about ten minutes and calling it a night, I felt kind of like a fraud. Like here I am writing every day, but nothing that really matters. I’m not writing my actual story, just the outline. And I’m at nearly 40,000 words in my rough sketch outline so far.

Here’s the consensus I’ve come to so far: it doesn’t really matter because this is just a phase in my writing. Phase 1) Dump everything down, muse about it, dump some more. We could call it the DO LOTS OF DUMPING phase. The whole point of this phase is to get a sense for the texture of the story, the characters, and the world. It’s not necessary or even helpful at this point to be specific about plot points. I’m merely hanging tapestries, painting backdrops, hiring above and below the line talent, and scouting locations.

In Phase 2 I’ll get more specific. Whenever I get to that point, and it appears to still be a while off yet, I’ll take my Wandering Outline (what a great name), boil it down to the essentials, and get specific.

If that wasn’t clear enough (and I realize it might not be). Here’s what I mean:

Phase 1) Get everything out, even if one sentence conflicts with the next. Muse about every possible conflict, every possibility, etc. Don’t worry about cliches and stereotypes. Put every idea you get down in this phase: creating the Wandering Outline.

Phase 2) Cut out the fat, trim the gristle. Here we go back through our Wandering Outline and trim out the possibilities that we don’t like as much as others that we keep. If, in our Wandering Outline, we have a character who’s a princess and a prince depending on where we discussed them, we decide what exactly we want them to be. Prince? Princess? Something else? In Phase 1 we put down a ton of material, much of it which conflicts with other material. We do our best in Phase 2 to make decisions. And we attempt to be more concise. Rather than blabbering on about the world dynamics, we try to simplify our discussion (for example) of which countries/peoples/ethnicities are in conflict and why.

In short: Phase 1 is all about the big picture. Phase 2 is all about the details and specifics.

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