Tomorrow I begin the outline for my current, as yet untitled, WIP (Work in Progress). I’m excited and nervous. Excited because I’m embarking on a new story with new characters, and nervous for the same reason. When you have the unknown stretched out in front of you–along with a deadline that’s mere months away (August)–it can be daunting. But I’m going to take it one step at a time.
As those of you who follow my blog know, I completed the revised, twenty-seven page synopsis last week. The outline will be considerably longer, but there are a few things I need to determine before I can start breaking the story down into scenes. Primarily, I need to decide on points of view, whether to use first or third person, and structure.
Point of view: I’ve already figured out that I’ll have two points of view. These are the thirtysomething sisters, currently named Maya and Rebecca.
First or third: Right now, I believe both of their stories will be told in third person. That’s the way the story is coming to me at the moment, but I know from experience that may change.
Structure: This is my biggest challenge right now. I need to determine the best way to tell the story. For example, in Before the Storm, I began with several chapters in the present and then began adding chapters from the past, slowly letting the reader in on the secrets from the past that shed light on what was happening in the current day. That’s often the structure I use in my books. In The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, the first chapter is in the present from Cory’s point of view, followed by CeeCee’s story in the past. Her story is told chronologically (unusual for me), with some leaps during which the years are compressed. Added to the structure are some short letters from CeeCee’s mother. ( Letting you in on a very minor regret, if I had CeeCee to write over, I would have skipped that first chapter from Cory’s point of view. I think it gave away a tiny bit too much.)
In my WIP, there’s a very strong backstory that informs the present-day story. I don’t think I can interweave the past with the present as I did in Before the Storm, though, because the reader is going to need to know exactly what happened in the past very early in the present day story. There won’t be much time for all that weaving.
Ironically, as I was stewing about how to approach this, I realized that the very book I’ve been reading before sleep each evening offered a possible solution. I just finished Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders (loved it!), and while the book is nothing at all like my WIP, I think its structure might work very well for my story. Brooks divides the book into three sections. The first is called Leaf Fall, 1666 and is one short chapter set in the present. The second section is called Spring, 1665, in which she takes us through the events of the preceding year until we reach the third section, again called Leaf Fall, 1666, when we’re returned to the present. This is the structure I’m going to play with for my WIP. Start in the present, quickly move to the past and allow the past to lead directly back to the present again. I’ll let you know if it works.
For now, it’s off to bed so I can get cracking on this in the morning.