I feel like I've learned a ton writing my first novel, Legacy of the Empress, and now that I'm ready to dive back into my second (Hollow Land), I know what to change and what to avoid.
I'm about 5500 words into my novel right now, and I realized, I had a lot of backstory and needed to start with more action. However, to start with action, I needed to fill in some holes in the brief outline I'd created. My husband and I sat down last night and brainstormed like you wouldn't believe. I feel incredibly confident now that I know where the story is headed, and now that I have someone else who thinks my plot is solid, too.
Here are some tips I've picked up from this experience:
1) If you find a plot hole in your outline--PLUG IT. I've learned from experience that it's better to brainstorm various options now then put it off until later and get stuck and have to do a big re-write. Last night, when I came to a sticky spot, my husband and I threw out crazy ideas while I took notes until something stuck. Don't be afraid to experiment :).
2) Get a partner to help with your outline. Get someone you trust and show them your outline, then talk about it step by step. They'll be able to tell you up front if parts of your plot seem wonky, weak, or missing entirely. You can go into your first draft with a boost of confidence that you're at least working with a solid foundation.
3) Take notes! If you have an idea about what feelings you want a scene to evoke or how you want your characters to react to it, note it briefly in your outline. Trust me, this will help later on when you're writing it.
4) Remember that nothing's set in stone. You can change anything you'd like at any time :). An outline isn't a ball and chain, it's a key to freedom! Now, you don't have to be afraid of getting "blocked" because you don't know where you're going, but you're also free to let the story take on a mind of it's own. Use the outline as a tool--don't let it use you!
So, what about you guys? Are there any projects that you're working on? :)