Friends, it’s been almost two years. Imagine me there, a little 13-year-old in early July 2020, having only just decided to pursue writing seriously in April, and joining the Young Writer’s Workshop only about a month after that. I was quickly scribbling down a new WIP (work-in-progress) idea in my journal, not wanting to forget it.
I liked it and was planning to outline the project to write it out during National Novel Writing Month, November. I first titled it, A Wolf’s Call. (I love how that title had no real involvement with anything. 😏) Some plan. I gave in to pantsing and ditched outlining after four chapters.
I first planned it to be 60,000 words, then dropped it down to 50K. The words just didn’t stop, and my end word count goal kept growing. 60K, 65, 70, 75, 80. . . now, the final tally is 100,901 words. O-0 I finished it Saturday, the 4th.
I did not expect it to reach that at all! Beyond the Wolf—the new and current name of this project—is my first WIP full 1st draft. I’ve learned SO MUCH from writing it. It sometimes takes grinding out a lot of trash before you learn what gold actually looks like. (;
If that makes any sense.
Some of what I’ve learned. . .
How outlining saved me from further insanity.
You know now that I pantsed basically the whole book. Only near the end did I scribble a general outline—on the map I made for Beyond the Wolf (BtW). It was basic, but it was enough. I finished it after all, didn’t I?
That’s not all, however. There were two more novella projects I began in the long BtW process. The first I called Finding Home. The second, which I mentioned in January, was called Heirs of Guinn. Both were meant to be pretty short.
For Finding Home, I wrote a fairly efficient outline, from beginning to end. When I got about 3K words in the actual first draft, however, I noticed that FH wasn’t working. I dwelled on the ending a bit, then decided it wasn’t worth my time, writing FH.
I was SO excited for Heirs of Guinn (HoG). I got pretty far in the outline for HoG. I focused a lot on planning out character development but then noticed that there was no meat to it. HoG was a really shallow concept, and the ending I started planning just didn’t work. I quit that one too.
I have no regrets on stopping both these novellas. They were shallow and boring, I now see. Outlining those both saved me so much sanity! I would have wasted plenty of time with little reward.
Why did I continue Beyond the Wolf, then?
BECAUSE. If I quit BtW after putting SO MUCH work into it, my mental health would go down the drain. And now? I feel so accomplished after finishing this! And I’ve learned a lot.
In case you didn’t know, I don’t plan on continuing any further with BtW. It is really, really bad. It lacks quality in its entirety. But now I know what trash really is, right? I have no regrets.
3 tips for you that BtW taught me.
1. Never have too many main characters, or characters in general! I had over 20 main characters, and it exhausted me. Most shifted from side characters to main ones. There were so many of them that they all ended up having zero real development (except for one little dude, Bolt; I’m a bit proud of his character arc).
Keep your characters at a minimum. Too many characters confuses both you and your reader. What no author wants is for the reader to give up reading—and because there are too many characters, of all things!
2. Concept matters! Concept is the whole idea of your book; the plot put in a few sentences.
The concept for BtW is not great: “a bunch of rebel wolves are attacked by armies of the emperor wolf. They band together and travel to take down the ‘big bad wolf’ emperor. They gain allies in moose, coyotes, and more along the way.”
It sounds so silly. So work on your concept! You’ll need it for yourself, and when friends ask what your book’s about. 😀
3. Themes are vital!! Halfway through BtW, I tried adding them in when I learned about them. It doesn’t work like that. You need your themes to resonate throughout it all.
They are the virtues or skills that you dissect throughout the story and what your characters are challenged to grow in. Forgiveness, self-control, caring, contentment, peace. . . whatever it is, they are super important!
So, what’s next for me?
I’m definitely not going to work anymore on anything involving BtW. But I’ve been plotting in my head a new writing project, and I’m really excited to start writing it down! Balancing out my perfectionism and impulsion by making a full but simple outline, and allowing myself to write down important scenes that pop into my head.
I’m also going to keep blogging consistently throughout the summer. Honestly, I will be very busy with writing, math, science, and other summer activities and events.
Right now, though, I’m just so relieved that I’m done with Beyond the Wolf. 😅 It’s been a long journey, and I’m thankful to the Maker for carrying me through it all.