The Rough Outline

I took a mini-vacation in June. Originally, we had planned to go to the beach, but those plans fell through. I decided to spend those five days churning out a rough draft of a one-shot high fantasy vampire romance that had been drifting through my brain for a good month or so.

So, I did what I do before a draft: I prepared. I outlined. I collected names. I outlined some more.

I ended up with two outlines with two different protagonists. One was a sheltered girl, the other raised on the streets. The two outlines went in different directions yet crisscrossed the same major plot points. I spent WEEKS sweating over which outline was better. I went back and forth. Over and over. I talked to myself on the way to and from work, pretending I was explaining each outline to an editor. I ended up picking the one I thought was cooler: the girl raised on the streets.

And I revised my outline with new vigor. Vacation Day 1 arrived, and I jumped on the keyboard. By Friday night, I’d written about 12 thousand words.

I’d also realized that my rough draft was very similar to Thief in the Castle. The rest of the roughly outline plot was also very similar to Thief in the Castle.

I was disheartened. I spiraled into one of those “I can’t write any more stories” depressions where I played Minecraft and watched Kim Possible instead. I worked myself into a migraine worrying about it, enough I had to fetch my anxiety meds. Then on Saturday, I went out with my man and his best friend and his wife. We hung out. Ate. Got rained on. Laughed. Pooped in a public restroom.

All the while I’m thinking of this rough draft that isn’t working. Why it’s not working. How I can make it work.

I’m not sure when it happened, probably before food, but I had a thought. What if I combined the core story of this one-shot vampire romance with the beginning of another one-shot romance that never went beyond an outline and an opening paragraph?

Hmmm, I thought.

Then food arrived, and we’d been waiting for like an hour and I hadn’t eaten breakfast. Later though, I started thinking about it again.

On Sunday, I rewrote the opening to this one-shot high fantasy vampire romance. I adjusted the angle just a little bit.

And I’m digging the result. Sure, it’s a little more “beauty and the beast” that I’d aimed for, but it’s not bad.

The point of this story is that a rough draft isn’t perfect. It’s the molding process. It’s the testing phase. It’s you telling yourself the story.

The first time I heard that phrase, I didn’t get it. It has taken me ten finished novels to get it.

By telling yourself the story first, you are clearing the way to revision. You are laying the foundation. Without a solid foundation, revisions and drafts won’t hold to the wind. Everything else that follows – beta reading, querying, marketing, all come back to the solid book.

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