Do You Know How to Fly This Thing?

“Put down that book and learn something!”

When I was a kid that open book on desksentence could easily have been addressed to me many, many times. I loved reading. Loved it with a consuming passion that the rest of the world generally reserves for other human beings, (but fellow bookworms will totally understand).

Before I even reached middle school, I had consumed tomes like David Copperfield and Great Expectations, completely unconcerned with the fact that those volumes are not generally considered elementary-school level material. I pretty much devoured the entire juvenile section of our small local library. My sister (two years younger than I) found that if she showed me almost any book from that section, I could tell her what it was about, and whether or not it was worth her time.

So yeah, bookworm might even be an understatement.

And it was far too easy for me to become enthralled in an story to the exclusion of all other things, including the subjects I was supposed to be focusing on in school. (Thankfully I was blessed with a devoted homeschooling mother who brilliantly got around that by supplying me with novels that covered the historical time periods we were studying, and killed two birds with one stone!)

I have always been in love with stories. The difference between now and then is that as an adult, I spend more time writing them than reading them.

But I still have the same problem.

I get so caught up in the magical anticipation of soaring through the wild blue yonder of story…


…that I don’t take enough time to study a map of where I’m headed and figure out how to fly the plane!

There’s always more to study. Much as some of us might like to think school is the end of all that, it just isn’t. And that’s a GOOD thing. Because really, if we stop learning, what’s the point of living? I personally would get board pretty quick.

And sometimes, if we really want to do something as magnificently as we possibly can, we have to take some time out to learn the best possible way to do it.

So what’s my point?

Well, when I began working on Fred and Lily’s story, I was so excited! And I couldn’t wait to get down to “the good stuff.” The actual writing. Consequently, I researched (a little) plotted a time-line (kinda) and wrote a bare-bones outline (well, the first half of one), all as fast as I possibly could, and then plunged into writing the first chapter. A few months later I published an edited version of that first chapter on my blog, and have been publishing a new chapter each month ever since. (Though I’m always several chapters ahead in my actual writing.)

But I keep hitting turbulence, my engines keep stalling, and I keep realizing I’m not quite certain which direction to point the nose of the plane.

plane in sky

This week, I figured out why.

While I have a natural bent toward story-telling, and have always been entranced with its art, I’ve never sat down and studied how to write a good story. I did it “naturally.” By instinct. And it worked ok while I was writing pure fiction. I could make up anything I wanted (pretty much) and could let my intuitive sense of story structure guide me as to when important things should happen, what the climax should be, etc.

But when I tried to apply that seat-of-the-pants, give-me-a-pen-and-turn-me-loose mentality to writing a novel based on fact, the model just didn’t work so well.

And so far I haven’t been able to write this book at even HALF the speed I wrote my last one. It took me awhile to realize what the trouble was, because I blamed the slow progress on everything else under the sun first (“my life is busier than usual”, “historical fiction is harder than speculative fiction”, “research slows me down”, etc, etc, etc) but this week, it finally dawned on me what the REAL trouble was.

This book needs an outline. It’s begging for an outline. A detailed outline that jives the historical facts with tried-and-true story structure including three separate acts, a hook, pinch points, plot points, and climax.

So all that is to say, there aren’t going to be any new chapters posted for awhile. I’m taking a break from writing chapters, to go back and map out the big picture, study outlining and story structure (I’m looking forward to reading books on both by K.M. Weiland), and hone my craft, rather than just relying on raw story-teller’s instinct.

But don’t worry! You’ll get to hear all about it. I plan to post regularly about what I’m learning, how it applies to Fred and Lily’s story, and where I am in the whole process. So you can follow along and find out exactly how things are going!

I know some of you are really enjoying the story thus far and are probably a bit disappointed with this delay, but I promise, the book will be far better in the end if I stop for a minute, and take the time required to “Put down that book and learn something!”

open book

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