“So How’s That Book Coming Along, Jeff?”

I’m glad you asked!

At the moment, I’m on Chapter 14 of the sequel to The Unwanted (working title is Prophecy Boy), and I’ve outlined it to be 18 chapters long. So, I’m more than 75 percent done. This is a good thing, I think. I’m writing this post on Friday, and I’m hoping to finish Chapter 14 by the end of the day, so when this goes live on Monday I’ll hopefully be well on my way to finishing Chapter 15.

I’ve mentioned it in passing before, but I’m just going to put it out here right now: first draft done by April 1. That gives me about a month and a half to finish it. If I wrote one chapter a week, I’d be able to hit that deadline with time to spare. Then, after a break to attend the Saints & Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, it’d be time to revise.

Now the revision, that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. “Why?” you ask. I’m glad you asked! Because I was feeling a bit stuck a few chapters ago (chapter 11, to be precise), I started writing the manuscript like this:

2016-02-10 11.35.35

As you can see, it’s kinda-sorta in script format. (Yes, I know it’s not strictly conforming to proper formatting; sue me.) I was beginning to worry that I was spending too much time in Jamie’s head—an easy thing to let happen when you’re writing in first person—and it felt like nothing was actually happening. This being a YA fantasy novel, that’s not good. (I’d argue that’s a bad state of affairs for any novel or story, really.) I got this trick from Chuck Wendig (whose blog is worth following if you’re a writer, I think), who suggested that, if you hate outlining, try writing a screenplay .

Now, I don’t hate outlining, but it occurred to me the screenplay format sits comfortably between both the outline and the fully fleshed out manuscript. And it gets you out of your character’s head, doesn’t get bogged down in backstory—unless you insist on having a character speak all of that backstory, and believe me, that’ll stick out like a sore thumb (note to self: cliché, revise)—and puts speech and action front and center. If it doesn’t get said or happen, it doesn’t end up on the page.

Of course, this means that when I’m revising, I’m going to have to take that screenplay and turn it into narrative. By that point, though, I’m hoping it’s a narrative that moves.