Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Things I Learned From My Kids: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Did you know it was Benjamin Franklin who coined that phrase? He was a smart man.
Thank you Google.

So let me ask, what do you get when you mix an unsupervised 2-year-old with a tub of blueberry yogurt?

The answer:
It happened this morning and the picture shows only a small portion of the carnage. There were probably 20 dollops about that size covering our living room floor. And do you know what makes it so much worse? We JUST had the carpets cleaned (less than two weeks ago)!

Two hours of scrubbing and a half gallon of carpet cleaner later the floor is still covered in purple spots. I hate yogurt.

Yeah. This is the reason that I don't blog or write while my two-year-old is awake. He must be watched at all times or something like this happens. While he was painting carpet with yogurt I was reading blogs, so this was TOTALLY my fault-- bad mommy!

This last week I've been gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). You all know about it now--right? Right. I've had all this prep time so I've done a few things I've never tried before-- outlining and character sketching.

I'm liking it.

It's quite a bit more preparation than I usually do, (because usually I don't prepare at all, I just jump into writing) but I'm hoping it will save me some time in the revision process, because usually I go into a project with no idea how the story will end, and end up rewriting a hundred times until I get something I'm happy with.

I haven't written anything on this manuscript yet (November 1st here I come!), so my outline may not be all that useful when it comes right down to it, but I am cautiously optimistic.

Have any of you ever tried to use an outline? (I know some of you use one on every project!) Do you think it makes the writing process easier? Do you stick with it or just use it as a general guide?

26 comments:

Mary said...

I feel your pain with the two year old. I'm still trying to clean toothpaste out of our carpet. I never realized how nasty toothpaste is - it won't come out. I made an outline for my current WIP and I like it because it helps me stay on course. I know there are certain major events that I want to have happen and the outline helps me to remember them. I don't follow it exactly, but helps me stay excited knowing that these exciting scenes will be coming up.

MeganRebekah said...

And I thought my dogs messed up my house...

I do have a general outline, but it's not firm or very detailed. And it's usually in my head. Sometimes I'll type things down in bullets, but I almost never look back at those files, it's more of a temporary act to get my thoughts together.

I'm getting excited for Nano! finished novels, here we come!

CKHB said...

At age 11, I spilled an entire plate of spaghetti onto a white carpet... the night before my mom and I were MOVING OUT of the apartment. We actually managed to get it cleaned up and not lose our security deposit... but it delayed our packing so much that my mom ended up emptying an entire dresser drawer into her purse right before we got our cab to the airport. Just dumped it right in, there was no time left and we'd forgotten it the night before.

Oh, and I don't outline, although I suspect I should.

Jessie Oliveros said...

I didn't use an outline for my book, just wrote. But I have tried outlining before and it took all the magic out of writing for me. I knew too much. I felt less free to write. However, I do want to do a rough outline for my rewrite.

And that really sucks about the blueberry yogurt on your clean carpets! Kids and the things they do. My son locked both me and him in his bedroom tonight and we spent 15 minutes screaming for my husband to come let us out. But your story is worse. My carpets aren't blue.

Tamika: said...

Natalie, I am so sorry! Trust me you are a good mommy.

I am gearing for NaNo as well, and this is my first time trying to character sketch and chapter summaries. I like where it's going and I feel more clear on the direction of my writing. Still free enough to let my characters live.

Keep us posted on how you like it.

Lady Glamis said...

I outline after the first crappy draft is finished and I have something to work with.

I think you might enjoy these posts on my personal blog. They include yogurt and messes that stain. Heaven help us all.

Um...Lotion?

You Can't Make Me Eat That

And I'll say right here that I HATE blueberries almost as much as yogurt. sigh.

Jade said...

And I thought puppies were bad. It makes me kind of scared to have kids.

I've tried doing real detailed outlines in the past and I always lose interest. Now I just come up with a basic idea and few main characters and start writing. I treat it like an adventure--you never know what's going to happen next.

I can't wait to start my new ms!

Susan R. Mills said...

I've got a purple Kool Aid stain just like that next to my couch. And, I hate to tell you this, but it was the result of my eleven-year-old. Some things never change. Anyway, about outlining, I don't use them, but during my latest round of revisions, I've decided that in the future I will. I think it could be helpful, even if I stray from it.

Stephanie Thornton said...

When my daughter was less than two she got out the blue Mr. Sketch marker and colored all over our white carpet. While I was playing on the Internet. Oops. I feel your pain!

As for outlines, I kind of have to use them in historical fiction. There are certain things that have to happen in the person's life, but I like to let organic writing happen in between those scenes. That way the free spirit writer and the OCD writer in me are both happy- there's structure, but not too much.

Anita Saxena said...

Before I start I have an over all picture in my head.
I can never outline the whole thing. But I'll outline a portion. Go with the flow while I write (usually different from the outline) and then outline the next chunk and repeat.

BTW....Don't forget to participate in the "Add On Story" shindig all month long at my blog:
http://anitasaxena.blogspot.com/2009/10/if-you-said-no-to-nanowrimo-how-about.html

Good luck with NaNoWriMo!

Renee Collins said...

I have a two year old boy myself. I'm pretty sure he is the reincarnation of the Tazmanian Devil. Maybe just a vessel for a small demon. I'm not sure yet. :)

As for outlining, I always make pages of notes before writing a story. I usually have a few key scenes in mind, but I don't write out a complete outline. As I write though, I need to see an arm's length ahead of me. I can't sit down to write without some idea of what's going to happen.

melane said...

I have a very general outline that I am using as a guide, nothing with a lot of details. The outline is just a basic one with major plot points I want to use, but I make up the little details as I write. That way I still have some surprises.

I know what you mean about the little ones getting into things. My 15 month old climbed into the chair directly in front of my laptop and did something to it. Now the touchpad won't work, but luckily I had a mouse from my old computer, so that's what I'm using now.

Abby said...

I'm feeling your pain on the carpet. When my youngest was two, she dumped pink nail polish all over my husband's brand new leather chair we'd just given him for Father's Day. Good times!

I don't outline more than jotting down a few rough ideas about what I want to happen in the story. It does make for a lot of rewriting, and I've been thinking I should do an outline for NaNo, but I haven't been able to make myself do it. Maybe it'll get done. We'll see. Good luck on NaNo!

Erica said...

Bummer about your carpet...Sorry.

You sound like you write just like me. I usually jump into writing without an outline or anything, but for NaNo this year. I have an outline, Character sketches etc. I think this is something I will continue doing.

I'm converted! Outlining here I come. Hope the blue comes out eventually...

staceyjwarner said...

Oh my purple! Yikes.

I outlined for screenplays and did character histories. The book I'm writing now is a memoir of sorts and is pretty much three months of my blog from two years ago (now deleted).

Good luck with your big month of writing. I just recently found out about NaNo.

Much love

Anissa said...

Oh yogurt, one of life's pleasures. I put laminate wood floors throughout our house and yet my boys still manage to spill on the one area rug that's in the living room. One rug in the entire house. Crazy.

I use a plotboard once I'm about 3/4 of the way through the first draft. It helps me focus on the end and gear up for what needs to be fixed in rewrites. Good luck with NaNo!

Matthew Delman said...

I might have to be forced into outlining for the back half of the current WIP just to make sure I get all the plot points in (there's a lot that has to happen).

And you are not a bad mommy, Natalie. Believe me, I've seen worse kids during my part-time work at retail.

Jennifer Shirk said...

I do outline--but it's a very brief outline. Like major things I know that should happen. I stick to it pretty much, although HOW I get to those points is where I can get creative. :)

Linda Kage said...

In the 2-year old's defense, he probably only thought the carpet was hungry too. Isn't he considerate?!

Anway, good luck on NaNoWriMo. I've used outlines before. Never really stuck to one by every last detail, but it was a good basic guideline.

Lisa and Laura said...

We usually outline in chunks. We'll get a general feel for what we want to happen in a book and then we'll outline section by section as we go. This gives us flexibility and makes the writing feel a little more organic. Well, that's what we tell ourselves anyways.

Um...so sorry about the yogurt incident. I think I would have cried. Do you think the carpet cleaner would buy it if you told them that they're spots that resurfaced? Yeah, me neither.

Diane said...

For execution and a perfect delivery.... I give it a 10!!!!! :O)

paulgreci said...

I don't usually start with an outline, more just notes on characters and some plot and setting ideas, maybe some major events that I think might happen. Once I've written part of the story I'll get a little more focused on where it is going and how I want to get there.

Heather Sunseri said...

Oh, goodness. That's bad. I hate yogurt, too!

Yeah, I'm character sketching and outlining for my rewrite. I'm liking it, but what I like is I already have the basic story written in the first draft. I'm just tightening and deepening and all that stuff we have to do after pantsing it. It's a major rewrite.

Dawn Simon said...

Bummer about the carpet. You'll laugh about it later. Really.

I always use an outline, but it only has so much. I need certain things to be organic, so my outline is a fluid guide. I like having a map and, like you, hope it makes the rewrites easier.

Sarah Skilton said...

Hi Natalie,

Good luck starting NaNoWriMo this weekend! May there be fewer yogurt mishaps in November :)
I'll be curious to hear how the outlining and character sketches serve you.

I outline mostly out of paranoia; I get my main plot ideas right before sleep, in the car or at work so I'm always jotting them down for fear I'll forget them. This process seems to work for me and gives me peace of mind when I sit down at the computer, because I like knowing exactly what scene comes next and whose subplots are moving forward when.

Happy (almost) Halloween.

David said...

Nanowrimo strikes again! I always need an outline, but can't start until I've tried to write without it.