A Novel Idea: Daydream, Outline, and Draft

My novels have been languishing in my drive for years.

Everything has been carefully laid out on the page. I know my characters and my setting like the back of my hand. I know their every wish, their every move, and motivation. I have outlined every plot point from beginning to end. But I still can’t bring myself to complete the first draft. Or maybe I have?

Is a detailed outline a draft?

I’m an old-fashioned outliner. I have notebooks filled with plot points and twists written in pencil and ink. By the time they make it to the digital drive I know every detail of how my story will play out. Arguably, I’ve already done the hard part. Everything beat is planned and organized. It’s all ready to flesh out, but when I start to build the story around the bare scaffolding I’m incapable of writing beyond page 45. What is causing the block?

I haven’t lost any enthusiasm for my stories.

If anything, I become more obsessed with them the longer I take to write. I continued to day-dream about about my story. The characters, plot, and themes becoming more detailed with each foray into fantasy. It’s all so real to me. I feel as if the story is already written, published, printed, and turned into a major blockbuster hit. It’s not until I revisit the drive that I realize that the pages are still mostly blank.

Maybe I’m getting discouraged.

A blank page can be overwhelming. It’s a visual reminder of what you haven’t done, all the work you need to do. Just like a big school project can cause students to freeze, a novel feels like an insurmountable mountain. Once you plot your route and start the climb, but when you see how slow your progress is, you give up. You start to doubt that you can make it to the top.

Maybe I’m afraid of rejection.

The publishing industry is competitive. You will face rejection at every turn- trust me, I know. I’ve had countless poems and stories rejected from minor publications, and it stings a little each time. At least those pieces only took a few hours of my time and energy to create. They only contained small fragments of my soul, so while disappointing, the rejections didn’t feel personal. I can only imagine how to it feels to pour years into a project, and be told it isn’t enough. I don’t know if I could handle that level of heartbreak.

Maybe I’m afraid of succeeding.

If I do manage to get a novel published, would that be enough? What if it’s a critical or commercial failure? Could I handle bad reviews ripping my baby to shreds? I’d like to believe I would just be happy to share my stories, but deep down I know I’m lying. I do want the acknowledgement, praise, and attention that comes with success. If I do get those accolades, would I believe I deserve them, or would I feel like an impostor? I tend to view any artistic accomplishments as a fluke rather than a product of my hardwork and talent. The pressure I’d feel to replicate the results with another tale might out me under.

Maybe I’m just lazy.

It’s also possible that I’m reading into this too much and there is no deeper psychological meaning behind it all. Maybe I haven’t finished a draft because I’m just not trying hard enough. I have plenty of time after work and on the weekends to write, but I don’t. As much as I’d like to pretend that I’m a “serious writer”, at the end of the day, there’s a lot of things I’d prefer to be doing than sitting at a computer. It’s just as honest to say I lack the discipline as it is to say that I lack the confidence.

I haven’t abandoned the work entirely.

I’m still daydreaming and drafting a little each week. At the rate I am going it will take another 5 to 10 years to finish a draft, but there’s no deadline to meet. There’s a strange since of comfort in having an unfinished project to return to. It’s a familiar world I can continue to visit when nothing else makes sense. Many artists claim it’s the process that is most important, and maybe to the artist that is true. As long as I am still writing I can keep dreaming of what it can be, not regretting of what it could have been. Maybe that’s the real reason I’m taking my time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s