I need to outline

This was my good morning from the world yesterday when I poked my head outside my front door at 4.30 am.


I am definitely not the wake-up-five-minutes-before-I-gotta-leave type. I want time to putter around, read some news, eat my food, perhaps even read a book if I’m in the middle of a great one. For the past 5 months or so,  I have set my alarm clock to 4.30 so I also get a little time to write before I leave the house.  This way I get some words out before my work sucks all my energy out of me.

It worked in the beginning. I wrote every morning, not much, a few hundred words, but enough to make me feel connected to my story and hopeful that the story I am writing is actually going to be finished.

But the last month or two I have been kind of stuck,  I haven’t written a single new word on it in ages.

It’s not because there is no story. No, the story is alive and kicking, it is swarming around inside my brain at all times. It is all there, more or less, the plot, characters, locations, it just needs to be written down. But I am not writting.

My insecurities are getting to me.  my mind is asking a lot of questions about my story, the practical kind, what would the police say or do? Would the body do this or that? How do you get permission to visit an inmate in the state pennitary?  How could the killer possibly get the body to that location without a helicopter and an army of navy seals?

I am suffering from Need To Get It Right.

This need always gets the better of me. It drowns out the story in my head with its obsessive nagging, and then inner editor police über nazi boss starts to fuck with me as well.  After a couple of weeks I have no confidence in my story, my writing skills or myself. I totally suck.

If I was a superhero, Need-To-Get-It-Right would be my archenemy.

So, being a superhero I need a superpower… or at least a weapon that can do something to that bloody nemesis of mine.

I decided that perhaps outlining could be the new Laser Death X-ray Vision. I could outline a skeleton to build the story on, and then even if Need-To-Get-It-Right rears its ugly ass face I could just pile letters and sentences on top of it and basically bury it alive.

But. I have never outlined a story in my life. Usually I think about my story 24-7 for weeks and months, research a little here, read up on something there, and then I sit down to write.

I don’t think I have finished more than a handful of stories, and none that is as complex as the one I am writing now.

So I’ve done some internet research, trying to figure out how one outlines a story. Turns out there is not a simple straightforeward answer to that question. Dammit. Here I was hoping for something easy to pop up, something that could kick me in my butt with minimal pain/effect ratio. No.

So for the past two weeks I’ve drawn mindmaps, I have filled a notebook or two with notes on this and that, I have started charts and written index cards, I have ordered and made lists and bullet points, but I still can’t turn my story into a easily accessible overview of chapters, actions, characters and plot. Whenever I try, I get to about the same point in my story where my writing falters and then I fumble and fuss and ask questions, obsess and bla bla bla bla. Nazi boss is having a ball in my head.

In the middle of this Chuck Wendig posted a blog on outlining and for a monent I thought I was saved. Chuck Wendig to the rescue. I thought I could read his post, get a few pointers, see the light and then two hours later a fully formed outline would be awaiting my every whim.

I still don’t know shit.

I am tempted to kick my story to the curb. Or to put a bullet its head.  But where would that leave me? Nowhere. I would just start up a new project that would die the same horrible death in six month’s time. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Yeah… no, not so much.

My road to hell is paved with half finished stories, one sided characters and oceans of wasted time.


And this was my good night.
And this was my good night.

So here I am, trying again to make the outline work. Or in other words procrastinate while I wallow in self pity.



So, I get up at half past four in the mornings to give myself a little writing time before I start my working day. Its half an hour less sleep and it seems my body is OK with me taking it. Well until it’s evening and 8 o’clock and my body insists on taking it back.

The thing about writing in the morning is that my inner editor is still so sleepy that I can get away with quite a lot, but my detail-obsessive mean streak is quite perky no matter what the hour is. So this morning I was well under way, 300 words into my half hour, my heroine is awaiting the arrival of the cops, and my brain starts this annoying whine. Would the cops put on the sirens for this, would they run or would they walk, would they …

I have no way of knowing. I’ve never been involved with the police more than a few calls to the emergency number for pretty mundane stuff. And I doubt its as easy as just picking up a phone to call them, as my daughter suggested. Least of all at 5 am in the morning.

I know what I really want to do. I want to gag the whining SOB in my head and just write. But then I start thinking about what a job of rewriting it all I will have if I don’t mind the details. Then another voice pipes up and tells Obsessive-worrier to shut it, just write on anyway.

Its a shouting match in there. Like siblings bitching at each other. I can’t win. When the bickering starts I might as well just pack it in for a time and go do something else, while that of course invites self-loathing for not being able to control my inner voices enough to JUST WRITE THE DAMN THING ALREADY.

And the funny thing is that it is not because I care about the details, not really. It is because my brain is telling me how people reading my stuff is going to react to my stupid flaws. I am jumping the gun by so many light years that I might as well worry about what will happen when and if I move to Mars.