[process] Learning from The Beast

Still thinking quite heavily over the experience of working on this just-completed draft of The Heart of the Beast. I’ve commented several times in recent weeks on the process working with a detailed, complex outline; something which is absolutely outside of my prior experience.

I’ve always said that my writing comes from deep within. That’s especially true of some of the work which I consider to be among my best. A classic example of “unconscious competence,” except that I seem to have skipped the stage of conscious competence to get there. With this work, I feel like I’m explicitly using some of the key tools of a novelist’s art with some deliberate precision and direction for the first time.

To render a specific example, I’ve never thought much about scene order or function within a plot, especially not when I’m drafting. I’m perfectly capable of articulating those concerns on revision or critique, but drafting has always felt like a black box activity to me. And I’ve become reasonably good at it over time, in a black box way.

Working with this detailed outline has enabled me to visualize the novel’s structure in much finer grained detail than I have normally (or possibly ever) done before. That in turn has meant that even while I was drafting, I was able to make choices about when certain scenes needed to fall, or where they needed to be moved to; and how other scenes needed to be added in to bring certain plot points or character transitions to the reader’s attention at the right moment in the flow of the text.

This sense of conscious control is something I’ve actively rejected in the past as being interference with my process. I’m acquiring an understanding of the power of the outlining technique which will probably take me quite sometime to internalize back to an unconsciously competent tool, but I’m pleased as punch to be doing even this.

All the above will seem to be originating from the “Sky is Blue” department to some of you reading this, but this is my journey. I love it when I discover new territory