(MY NOVEL UPDATE) The journey towards writing my first novel is well underway. Listen in and find out where I’m at, and learn two really amazing lessons I’ve learned and incorporated into my journey so far. One of them is a lesson from Dan Brown!
Today is Episode 2 in Season 2, and I suggest that if you haven’t listened to episode 1 of Season 2, AN INVITATION, to start there.
Last I left off, I was going on a journey to write my first novel and I promised to take you along for the ride. Today, I want to update you on the journey and also share two important lessons I’ve incorporated that can apply to any idea, any project, that you yourself might be working on. Including, your life as a whole, which is its own creative project.
Also, remember, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook to get more frequent updates on this journey I’m on. Just search, The Roaming Scholar.
Now, let’s get to it…
Where am I on my journey?
Well, I’m right on track.
“Oh, now that’s boring, Derek… where’s the drama?!?”
Sorry, no drama. It’s been an awesome experience so far, and my outline is done. I’ve mapped this story out really well and I can see the path from the beginning, the crime, to the end, criminal captured. I see the twists and turns in the plot and the “aha” moments that will be made by my detective, Jewel, and when she’ll make them.
This took me close to two weeks to get to though… and a little longer since I was working on things for about a month before then. But, the outline is the most important part of seeing a project through to completion. We can always get started on a project without an outline, but eventually, if we want it to come out great, there comes a time to pull back and map out the whole thing. A time to create the blueprint for how we want things to go.
The outline is the place to start. One thing I realized though, is that for some projects, especially those a bit outside the comfort zone, learning to outline whatever project you are working on is the place to start.
This is the first lesson that I want to talk about.
*my actual painting!
I’m a big fan of the idea to just get started on that big dream. Just take some steps forward. Yet, sometimes we don’t know enough to even do that. I wanted to bring this up in case anyone is in that boat. Unable to get started because they don’t know where to start.
Let me give you a personal example:
A few years ago…
several years ago…
Ok, several years ago I wanted to have another go at painting. Just for fun, just because. Yet, whenever I tried it I didn’t know where to start and so it always seemed too challenging. I had certain pointers about approaching a painting, but never how to start a painting; how to outline it? I could sketch, but how do you sketch with paint?
In those situations, I could start a painting, but it would be so bad that I wouldn’t know how to make it right. Or, not knowing how to really start it and outline it makes the whole project seem undoable, so it stopped me from really trying.
Enter painting hero!
My friend, Rob, is an amazing painter and one night a few of us were over his place and somehow we all got set up to paint along with Rob. He gave us all the materials and as he started his own painting from scratch, he gave us all a little lesson.
Ooooh, I bet it was a lesson in outlining a painting!
Yes, you’re right, just listen.
I watched as he covered the entire canvas with a thin coat of paint. Then, with no paint on his brush, Rob began removing paint in a strategic manner and within a minute we could all the see the outline of his painting and I was amazed. I could see the end result of the painting. Maybe not the colors it would have, but the shape, the look, and feel. I could see now how to get started, and then from there, it was almost easy.
It’s definitely not easy, but the idea of how to outline the painting is… easy!
That led me to be able to complete my first painting, which was a gift for my mom.
Oh, and btw… Happy Birthday, mom!! When I turn 60, I hope I am as adventurous, as bold, and as kind as you are. I love you, Mom.
Ok, back to the Podcast…
So, if you don’t know how to start a business, look up how to create a business model; if you don’t know how to write a song, look up the basic structure for most songs; if you don’t know how to write a novel, look up how to outline one. It was doing this, that led me to the second and really awesome lesson for today. I’m going to explain what the lesson is and how it applied to my writing, then how we can apply it to our lives.
Come on Derek, just tell us already!
Ok, ok.. here we go.
One of the things that sparked this whole journey was my continued interest in learning and bettering myself as a writer. I subscribe to the online course database of MasterClass, where famous and well-known people give classes on their skill. So, Samuel L. Jackson gives a class on Acting, and Gary Kasparov on Chess, and Dan freakin’ Brown on how to write a thriller.
I took Dan Brown’s Master Class and it was excellent. Even if just to see this guy’s study/library in his house complete with DaVinci Code artifacts, Criptex’s, and a secret hidden door in the bookshelf.
Ooh man, I want that. Who wouldn’t want a secret door, right?
Anyway, one of the many lessons I learned from him, that I’m hopefully applying into my mystery/thriller story, is how he approaches outlining his stories. There were many things he discussed, but one of the lessons that made the biggest impact on my outlining process was to write my hero into a corner. To write myself into a corner with no way out.
He gives an example from The Da Vinci code. If you haven’t read the book, or seen the movie… what are you doing? Come on, now. Just kidding, but semi-serious… get it done.
In the story, in the beginning, he writes his hero Robert Langdon into a bathroom at the Louvre in Paris, with the whole place surrounded by the Police, and Langdon being thought of as the murderer. Dan Brown talks about how he struggled here trying to figure out how on Earth his character was going to escape this place without it seeming stupid. He goes on to describe how he could have re-written the part and placed him somewhere else with an easier getaway, but instead, he kept himself written into a corner with no way out.
“This,” he said, “is how the good ideas come about.” I’m paraphrasing, but the idea that he was talking about was that when you make an impossible problem to solve, your mind can eventually find a way to make a possible solution. Thus, came the idea to take the tracker that was placed in Robert Langdon’s pocket, stick it to a bar of soap, and toss it out the window causing all the Police to follow suit in the opposite direction to where Robert Langdon was really heading.
The tracker didn’t exist though. Not yet at least. Dan Brown had to go back and write that part into an earlier chapter. And the window in the Bathroom was technically not the right window, but this, he said, is where the writer has some leeway to make fiction, fiction.
A little re-writing of an earlier chapter, a little alteration to the Architecture of the Louvre and BAM, his impossible escape, became possible. For the reader, it was a great scene of clever thinking by the characters and also a tense scene by knowing this is going to be a really challenging escape! Near impossible.
What a cool lesson… so that’s what I did. I wrote myself into a corner with this story. I created a killer for my story who is insanely clever, precise, exacting and leaves no evidence. How on Earth is my detective, as bright as I can make her, going to catch someone who leaves no trail?
Derek, meet corner.
That was the struggle that I was working on with my outline over the past two weeks. How to get a criminal caught, when it’s impossible to catch him or her?
It’s more challenging, but doing this will do two things hopefully: First, it’ll make my detective that much more impressive for figuring it out. Second, it’ll make the challenge that much more exciting to read about.
While working on this problem, I was also brainstorming other minor plot points, character arcs and so on. I even found myself diving into Story #2 a little as well. Can’t help it, they’re all going to be connected by a little thread, so when an idea hits… write it down. Yet, most of my energy was focused on this one part. If I could figure it out, the rest would fall in place. So, I had one idea… it was ok. Then, another idea… it was a little better, but missing some pieces.
And then, on Wednesday night… there it was… the path through to the other side of this impossible situation. A way to make sense of it all… how and why this killer gets caught and why it makes sense. The light at the end of the tunnel was there… and the corner was dissolving.
From there, finishing the outline was much much easier. And I have almost 40 chapters or 40 major scenes laid out and I’m ready to return to writing the story now that I have my blueprint to follow.
BACK TO THE CORNER
I want to take this same idea of writing ourselves into a corner, and apply it to anything you’re working on. I think it’s a great way to think about our lives and help us dream bigger and take bolder action. It can also help us see that anything is possible.
So, there are a few ways we can do this, and here are the two I’ve gravitated towards.
The first is simple and it’s called the 10X rule. Take whatever monetary goal you have and make it 10X that number. All of a sudden, you’ve got an impossible situation on your hands, you’ve written yourself into a corner, and you have to find a way out. I imagine when most of us make a goal it’s already pretty big. But then 10 times that has to feel daunting and frankly impossible.
Now, start thinking though, and see what you come up with.
Ok, I can hear some of your heart beats from here… if an idea like this or the other one I’ll share gets your heart racing with anxiety you’re missing the point. It’s supposed to be a FUN challenge. A challenge for sure, but FUN and exciting to imagine. I mean, just think… if you find a solution to achieving 10 times your initial goal… holy crap you’re going to feel amazing! If you don’t… all good, you’ve still got your goal.
So, remember, stay cool, stay calm… dream big, and let’s talk about the second idea.
This one comes from Tim Ferris in The Four Hour Work Week… awesome book and a life changer for me.
In the book, he talks about goal setting and he takes the first idea a little differently. He says to imagine not a one-year goal, but something like a 10-year goal. Someplace you’d like to be, something you’d like to do, and so on. Obviously, it should be a big goal or dream because it’s 10 years from now.
Now, the corner part.
Take that 10-year dream and ask yourself… “How can I achieve that, in 6 months?”
I’m sorry, what? 6 months!! That’s ludicrous. Preposterous!
There you go again, with the heart beats…
Just imagine though… Have some fun with it. Contemplate different and wild ways to achieve 10 years worth of goals and dreams in 6 months.
What if you found yourself out of that corner! That could be amazing. It’s worth thinking about. Because imagine the opposite too. Imagine hitting your 10-year goal in 10 years and then realizing that you could’ve got there in 6 months? That would suck!
So, dream BIG, write yourself into a corner and try to find your way out.
TIME TO WRITE
This Podcast, this Season, is about me sharing my journey as I chase a big dream and I think I’ve done what Tim Ferris suggested. I mean.. if you listen to Season 1, Episode 6… Inter|View… I talk about how it is my dream to have written a novel and onto the NYT Bestseller list within the next 5 years. In my mind, just two months ago, I was thinking I’d start getting it done next year sometime. And after another year or so of writing, I’d finish the book. Then, some time to get published and so on.
Then, everything I talked about last month happened and here I am, trying to accomplish a 5-year goal, in 1 month.
You bet, but as I said last week… why the hell not?
I’ve seen this as a fun game from the get-go. A challenge, but a fun challenge.
That’s how all our dreams should be: a fun challenge; a, “let me see if I can do this” challenge.
So, what’s your corner going to be? What impossible position are you going to place yourself in this month? This year? If you share, I’d love to help give you ideas on how to break out and find the path to that impossible dream.
You can do so on Instagram or Facebook at The Roaming Scholar, or feel free to comment on the corresponding blog post for this Episode… links in the description.
Next time, I’ll have some pages to share with you and let’s see if I can get your heart pumping and aching for the next chapters to come out.
On that note, I gotta get going. I gotta get writing!
See you all soon : )