Preptober is going awesome!
The first week of Preptober: done!
I’ve mostly been brainstorming ideas and getting them into mind maps.
So, I’ve been asking myself a ton of questions, and doing a ton of research:
- What kinds of situations and events would I expect onboard the International Space Station?
- What kinds of astronauts are up there?
- What are their responsibilities?
- What are they doing?
…then using that research to subvert expectations:
- What will the astronauts be doing up there in my story?
- Who are they?
- What are their characteristics?
- What kinds of conflict could happen between these characters?
- Who could be the antagonist in a story like this?
- What could be the shared goal between the protagonist and the antagonist?
- How could they come into conflict?
- What could their final battle look like?
From those answers, I summarised a story. Then developed it into an outline. And now, I’m in the process of breaking it down scene-by-scene, seeing what works, and pulling out what doesn’t.
For me, outlining is an iterative process. I’ll go from top-to-bottom to figure out the story structure. Then I’ll go again, and focus on one particular character to make sure they’re coming through loud-and-clear. Then I’ll go again, and tease out the emerging theme. But then the story will need more work, so I go around again.
And I love it!
It can be seriously disheartening when a story feels like it’s stalled and there’s no direction to take. But you know what the cure is? Brainstorming and mind mapping!
Maybe one in every fifty ideas I have is any good. I know that. So, I know I have to get forty-nine terrible ideas out in a brainstorming session before the fiftieth one comes out and saves me.
Iterative outlining and the outline goal
In my last update, I proposed this plan for Preptober:
- By Sunday 8th October: 2 scenes outlined and ready for first draft.
- By Sunday 15th October: 18 scenes outlined and ready for first draft.
- By Sunday 22nd October: 34 scenes outlined and ready for first draft.
- By Sunday 29th October: 50 scenes outlined and ready for first draft.
With hindsight, that was a terrible plan. It doesn’t accommodate iterative work. The reality is going to be something like this:
- By Sunday 8th October: rough outline for Act 1 and half of Act 2 done.
- By Sunday 15th October: rough outline for half of Act 2 and Act 3 done.
- By Sunday 22nd October: final outline for Act 1 and half of Act 2 done.
- By Sunday 29th October: final outline for half of Act 2 and Act 3 done.
This basically gives me two weeks to get at least the first pass of the outline done, then another two weeks to get everything squared up for pedal-to-the-metal first-drafting.
This week’s achievements!
According to my plan, I should be here:
By Sunday 8th October: rough outline for Act 1 and half of Act 2 done.
Well, here’s where I’m at:
- I’ve got my Ulysses project set up for notes, character descriptions and the outline.
- I’ve done the first pass of the entire outline.
- I’ve done the second pass of the Act 1 outline.
- I’m about half-way through the second pass of the Act 2 outline.
Which puts me right on my goal!
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the blurb needs to be updated to fit the changes to the outline.
Last week, the blurb was:
After a burial in space goes wrong, a scientist onboard the International Space Station is visited by the ghost of the deceased.
She tries — and fails — to keep her encounter a secret from the rest of the crew. When the truth is revealed, it leads to the unveiling of a world she never knew existed, and risks the end of the world that she does.
Now, I’ve got a plot point to remove (the “burial in space goes wrong” plot point was utterly stupid and unnecessary) and some more detail to add.
Here’s how it stands now:
400 kilometres above the Earth, Callie Devin is a scientist-astronaut developing software systems onboard the International Space Station.
Callie’s comfortable routine is interrupted when she’s asked to perform a burial in space. The ashes of a young woman, who dreamt of a life beyond Earth, are delivered to the station to be committed to the stars.
And her dreams of returning to that comfortable routine are thrown out the airlock when the ghost of the deceased drops in to thank her.
In her struggle to maintain a rational mind and uphold her responsibilities to the crew — a botanist, a propulsion engineer, an atmosphere researcher, and a water recycling systems designer — a new world is revealed to her, and she finds herself on the front line of a centuries-old war.
It’s rough, but there’s no point in polishing it until the story is done. Hopefully, someone out there is interested!
The plan for next week is… more of the same. I need to wrap up the second pass of the Act 2 outline, and pass over the Act 3 outline too.