Lesson Learned: Focus is Good

When we last chatted on this site, I was trying a new technique to outline my novels before writing the beats. I’d successfully written the beats for Divinity Ascending, but I felt like there had to be a faster way. In my previous post, I talked about trying out OmniOutliner and tried it out.

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that OmniOutliner is a fantastic outlining tool. The bad news is that making an outline wasn’t what was holding me up.

Please allow me to take a moment and confirm some advice we’ve all heard before: If you want to finish writing a novel, you have to write the novel. Putting a little different spin on that, I’d also say that if you want to finish a novel’s beats, you have the write the novel’s beats.

I got caught up trying to make an outline explicitly following  Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering. I still think it’s a fantastic resource, and I’m still using it as a guide, but I found that if I try to use it as the skeleton of an outline, I couldn’t make progress.

So now I’m taking a different tack. I’m trying to think through the political, corporate, religious, and other world-building elements. Since I’m often away from my desk when I have time to work on that stuff, I’m using Notes on my iPhone, laptop, or (when I manage to get home) my iMac.

Apple’s Notes application has enough structure to help organize my thoughts but enough flexibility that I can quickly document my thoughts while sitting in a McDonalds.

Another factor is that since early this year, I’ve experimented with increasing the number of posts on my anime site, Crow’s World of Anime. In the Spring 2019 anime season, I went from about 3 posts a week to 5. In the Summer 2019 season, I went to 8. I learned two important lessons:

  1. I could publish content daily (two on Sunday, including a collaboration with Irina from I Drink and Watch Anime), which means I had time to write.
  2. Writing 8 posts a week meant I had little time for, you know, novel writing.

In essence, I was trading the excitement and pride in producing content whose daily readership is steadily increasing for progress on the novels.

When you last saw the beats for A Ghast in the Machine, there were only 14 entries. Now, there are 17! That’s an increase of 3 in… well… 9 months. Clearly, I need to change my approach.

Starting with the next anime season, I’m going to reduce my output to 2 main reviews, a collaboration review (if my collaborator has not grown weary of collaborating with me!), and one or two abbreviated reviews, which I call Best in Show. That’ll free up some time for novel preparation and writing.

If that’s not enough time, I might cut back to one main review, a collaboration review, and 2 or 3 Best in Show reviews. The latter are much faster to write, though my readers seem to prefer the longer form reviews.

If it means I can force myself to focus more attention on novel writing, it’ll be more than worth it.

Apologies for any typographic errors — I had a few minutes before turning in, and I wanted to give you a quick update. Please feel free to share any thoughts about Apple’s Notes or integrating it with Scrivener (especially beyond just copy/pasting!).

Thanks for stopping by!