Cariad Eccleston

Just a gin-filled dork.

My Challenges as a Queer Female Time Traveller: 5,918 words

06 August 2017

Now that was a productive weekend!

This time last week I had 741 words in 11 outlined scenes.

Today, I have 5,918 words in 50 outlined scenes!

Ulysses project

Here’s what my Ulysses project looks like today:

My Challenges as a Queer Female Time Traveller project in Ulysses.

The first things I want to point out are the circles next to Manuscript, Act 1, Act 2 and Act 3. Those show my progress vs my goals; when the circles are filled then I’ve written as many words as I had planned to write. Of course, I can adjust those as I go. They’re just a guide.

Right now, my goal for the manuscript is around 70,000 words, and that’s broken down into:

  • 17,500 words for Act 1.
  • 35,000 words for Act 2.
  • 17,500 words for Act 3.

The 50 scenes I’ve outlined so far break down into:

  • 16 scenes in Act 1.
  • 22 scenes in Act 2.
  • 12 scenes in Act 3.

Assuming around 1,000 words per scene, I know I’m currently a little under my 70,000 goal. I’m not worried about that yet, though. There are still some major gaps between most of those scenes, due to a few problems I stumbled over.

The A plot became the B plot

When I first started planning the story last month, it was primarily a romantic comedy with a time-travelling mystery subplot.

The more I detailed it out, though, the more it came primarily a time-travelling mystery story with a romantic subplot, and the comedy has gone out the window. Hell, I only had one death in the original outline, and now dozens of people have died in the scene breakouts.

I got a bit worried that the light atmosphere I wanted had evaporated, but something about the problem sounded familiar…

I pondered it over a cup of tea, then I remembered Max Kirin’s advice for describing “atmosphere”.

That advice – in a nutshell – is really to not worry about it during the first draft.

So I won’t!

I’m just going to focus on the story for now, then coax some of the humour out after the first draft is done.

Gaps in the story = a few more characters

The pre-writing I did last month really helped me to understand the characters very deeply and how their interactions drive the plot… but, back then, it was a romantic comedy.

So while the story started leaning towards being more of a science-fiction thriller, the characters weren’t prepared for it. With hindsight, my pre-writing focussed far too sharply on describing the characters, and not nearly enough on building a super-exciting story.

This weekend has been all about taking the characters I already know, and tweaking them to play out the story I want.

For example, the story now has some physical fights, so I had to give one of my leads some muscle and a personality that wants to use them. I also realised that the antagonist needed a even grander plan, so I made him more manipulative – and gave him some characters to screw over. The character who was just called “Const’s boss” last week is now called Sarvamitra. He had a single scene in Act 1, and now he’s a deeply, deeply flawed man who plays a role throughout.

The Final Battle

My only oh shit moment so far occurred when I started working out The Final Battle.

Picture the scene:

The villain’s plan has come together. If he pushes the Big Red Button then he wins. Our heroes only have to stop him before he can smash it… and they do.

They didn’t even break a sweat, because they were super-prepared. High-five!

Hmm… maybe they overcame their flaws a little too early a few scenes back.

…and where did the villain even get that Big Red Button from anyway?

…and wait – if the secret base in the future knows about the villain, why don’t they just send a commando unit back in time to pulverise him?



…and yeah, Act 3 needed a really good shakeup.

If you check out the screenshot of the Ulysses project above, you’ll see a new The Final Battle group up at the top. I’ve taken it out of the manuscript for now so I can isolate it and get a really good handle on what’s going on and what needs to happen.

How I mark up questions and hack out solutions with Markdown in Ulysses

One of the main reasons I use Ulysses is for the customisable Markdown formatting.

For example, I’ll use double-colons (“::”) to mark up a question to highlight it, then hack out possible solutions as bullet points beneath.

Ulysses double-colon markup.

This helps me to see immediately where my outstanding questions are, so I can ponder them while I make coffee. As soon as I’ve got a solution I’m happy with, I replace the question and the bullets with a descriptive sentence.

My big task for this week

So, this week, I need to get The Final Battle understood and outlined. I’ve already introduced some new players and some new dangers, and I’ve got some ideas for the obstacles to lay for my heroes.

I’m not even going to think about the rest of the story until it’s done. Any changes I need to make to earlier scenes will only be to service this finalé.