Adventures in the Great Outdoors, I

If you took the way that my husband (The Man Of The House, or TMOTH) and I grew up and compared them, you would see the reason why the two of us are vastly different. Unless we were at my grandparents’ farm, we didn’t do much outdoorsy stuff–camping, hiking, fishing, etc. My husband? was outside ALL THE TIME.

Ironically, my husband and I met on a camping trip–the weekend was the first time I’d ever stayed overnight in a tent.

While I’m still not an “outdoorsy” girl–I’d still rather be at home with my books and laptop–I’ve been getting better about being outside. Or at least I’m trying to be.

Frequently on the weekends, my husband says for me to pack a cooler and grab some diapers for our three-year-old, and off we go. Sometimes I grumble, if not to him, to myself. I’m not a spontaneous person, I like to have some time to plan things when possible. An hour to pack everything we’ll need for the rest of the day and it’s 11 AM? Yeah, doesn’t thrill me too much.

But, I like what it’s teaching my kids–to be flexible, roll with the punches, and most importantly, enjoy the outdoors (although, much of the time, all they’re enjoying at this age are movies in the car and an excessively long car ride.)

Father’s Day was one of these days. On the way to church, TMOTH made noises that he wanted to go fishing. So, I had about a two hour warning before we got home that this was on the plate. Get home, pack lunch, grab the diapers, head out. 

Then, what inevitably happens with us, “Where are we going?”

“I don’t know. You tell me.”

“It’s Father’s Day. You pick.”

“I don’t know where to go!”

A bluegill our daughter caught on Father’s Day

I sigh, make a few half-hearted suggestions. We stop and he retrieves the Gazeteer from the trunk. I start telling him directions. The kids watch “How to Train Your Dragon” for the 17th time in the last few weeks. The younger one naps. The dog is cramped, on the floor between the front and back seats of our mid-sized sedan.

We’re all wishing we had a Suburban, especially the dog.

Eventually, we find a spot we’ve been to before, a long, long time ago–maybe before the kids came around. TMOTH and our daughter fish.

Our daughter catches two small bluegill, TMOTH catches a small catfish and a small bluegill.

I keep our son from falling into the water, take pictures of dragonflies when I can get close enough to them without our son getting too close and scaring them off. We huddle down together after retrieving our hats from the car as light showers come across the lake and hit us head on. By the time we leave, my T-shirt is soaked from the rain.

I’m cold, haven’t had dinner, and am tired, but other than gently reminding my husband he neglected to get me something to eat when I couldn’t eat at Subway (I started a gluten-free diet last fall, so Subway is NOT on my menu,) I don’t say too much. I do adjust the thermostat in the car to something a little warmer, then help my husband figure out where the heck to go. We take a wrong turn or two (I’ve gotten turned around on where we are,) and I mark the Gazeteer in ink on where to go again, and scratch off roads shown on the map that aren’t roads.

It’s been a successful day overall. We made it home in one piece. The kids got to run around and fish. I took several pictures, none I’m thrilled with, but they’re okay. And more importantly, my husband got me out of the house. I’ve become quite a homebody the last couple years. Having your life center around the health and wellness of your immune-compromised son will do that to you.

Next up on our list of challenges–a possible weekend trip to a cabin, or maybe even in a tent.

I’m not sure I’m ready yet.

Until next time…

Plan or Not To Plan — That is the Question

Okay, I’ll admit it. I hate to outline a book before I begin writing it. My normal process is that I’ll get a rough idea–usually, someone kills someone else, and an idea of a few of the characters–and as soon as it’s solidified enough in my brain, I’ll begin writing. Sometimes this works well; sometimes not so much.

But, I had something odd happen last year when I began working on Cora’s Song. I came up with the premise. I came up with the characters. I came up with a title–which was a first. And, I came up with an outline. This wasn’t just X happens in act 1, Y happens in act 2, and Z happens in act 3. I’m talking a full-out, point by point outline. It took me three days to write it–and I was newly pregnant at the time! When I finally typed the thing up this year, single-spaced, it went on for six pages. Yikes!

In the process of writing an outline and utilizing it, I’ve discovered a few things about not only myself, but the writing process. While having an outline has proven useful to me, my writing process has slowed. In the past, I’ve written first drafts in just a few months–usually under six months, rarely less than two. And while, yes, I did have a baby during the writing of this book, I worked on the first draft for a year and a half. I could blame the baby, but I know part of it’s been me. I was derelict in finishing the draft just because, well, I’ve got this outline! It’s sort of done… right?

I’ve learned that having an outline doesn’t mean a writer doesn’t get stuck, either. I had many times where I’d stare at my paper and go, “Gee, I know where I am, and I know where I need to go, but how on earth do I make that leap to get there?”

And, my outline has been fluid. Different forces were working on me (namely pregnancy hormones!) when I wrote the outline. When I finally transcribed it, I realized some things had changed in the story, adjusted for that, and even re-did the ending a bit.

In the past, my first draft always had loose ends that I had to go back and figure out how to tie them up later. While I’m going to have some things to do on this draft, it’ll mostly be checking for consistency and world-building descriptions. Truthfully, I think this draft will be ready for publication more quickly than the mystery novel I’ve been working on for about three years. That’s kind of scary!

What’s been nice about having an outline, in addition to everything I’ve said, is that I can see at a glance where I’ve been already and where I need to go. And, if I need to go looking for a detail, I can approximate where in the story it is, so it does save me some time (although this is still reliant on my own brain, so it’s no guarantee I’ll find it quickly!) For a non-organized person like myself, this is definitely proof that messy-types can learn to improve their organizational skills, at least minutely.

Now, the weighty part. I’m already beginning to contemplate what will be my next project after I wrap up Cora’s Song and Homebody. Will I outline that novel? While I’m not certain–I may fall into my old habits and just have at it–having this outline has definitely helped me. I can finally see the benefits of having an outline. I may not outline as drastically as I did in this project. But if I know where I’m going from start to finish, I think it’ll help keep me on task.

And, with a toddler running around the house, I need all the help I can get.

Until next time,

For more information on this topic, check out the following blogs:

Benefits of Outlining
yWriter Software Tutorial

Word Sharpeners:
Planning, Outlining, and Organizing Your Novel — Or Not!