The Problem of an Ambitious Mess

I haven’t posted in a while. For reasons. Let’s start at the beginning. Back in the spring, a good friend (who knows my penchant for dawdling) extracted a promise from me that I would finish a 90,000-word-minimum draft of a mystery novel I was halfway finished with. This draft’s deadline? August 1. Now, August seems a long time away when you haven’t even dragged the lawn  mower out. I agreed it was a fair deadline. And then I got invited to an awesome workshop.

At the awesome workshop I offered up the first 13,000 words of an urban fantasy that I’d been tinkering with. The response was so positive that I wanted to keep the wheels in motion on that project. So, in the third week of June, I renegotiated with my friend, that I would instead finish 90K words of this whole new novel instead. By August 1. This was, while a little too ambitious (for my particular summer schedule) still totally possible, I thought. And maybe it was. But with only a rough outline in hand, I saw a problem develop that I hadn’t anticipated and it looked a lot like a real-world, tangible mess that I once witnessed.

Years ago, I offered to help a relative move into a new house. When I arrived, though, I found them thanking the crowd of neighbors who had pitched in. Lo and behold! The  moving truck was already empty! It was not a small truck either. Though I was initially impressed at how much work had been done in so short a time, I soon saw the drawback to the process. In their eager and well-meaning haste, the crowd had filed into the house, depositing boxes in stacks in the first available floor space they found. That created two walls of shoulder-height boxes that stretched from the entrance and halfway through the house. Unpacking the boxes meant having to heft, rearrange, and re-move every last one but now, crammed indoors, with less space to work with. A little more planning and little less eager haste would have made the whole process a lot more smooth.

I am less than a week away from my deadline and only a little more than halfway to the word count goal. The overly ambitious project has been hamstrung by too little planning. With only a sketchy outline, I have crammed in details that have to be shifted, repackaged, and relocated. Plot elements have piled up as haphazardly as those moving boxes from years ago. I had hoped I could make good progress with only a general idea and have learned, if nothing else, that unless I want to plod along at a ridiculously slow pace then I need a thorough outline.

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