30 July 2017
A few years ago, I started working on my first novel.
It’s a multi-generational science-fiction saga about the end of the world. Pretty cool, huh?
Working on it was always a joy and never a chore, but – even years into it – I’ve barely scratched the surface. It’s just too big and daunting for my first time.
(That’s what she said, anyway.)
Every week, if not every night, I chipped away at the outline and got to know the characters and their lives a little bit better. Those chips were the best I could do, because I was intimidated as hell at the size of the story.
About a month ago – July 1st – I was slouched in front of my TV. I was recovering from two weeks away in the USA, and just too tired to go out to my local LGBT+ Pride. Hell, I was too tired to even choose what to watch; I just let YouTube’s recommendation engine carry me away.
After… I don’t know… many hours of pretty flashing lights, I saw a video called “MY CHALLENGES AS A QUEER FEMALE TRAVELER & DIGITAL NOMAD #lgbtq”.
And I did a double-take, because I thought it said “MY CHALLENGES AS A QUEER FEMALE TIME TRAVELER”.
First, I laughed at myself for mis-reading it.
Then I was kinda gutted, because “My Challenges as a Queer Female Time Traveller” sounds like an awesome story.
Then – in a flash – I saw the story in my head. The story of the queer female time traveller.
It was exciting. It was funny. And – super-importantly – it wasn’t a saga which was going to bog me down for the next few years!
I started hacking out an outline and some characters, and it flowed like nothing I’ve written before. I wasn’t chipping away at it; I was shredding it with a chainsaw.
And it felt fantastic! I even booked some vacation away from my day job so I could put some serious hours in.
After four weeks of hacking and refining the characters and their stories, I had a nudge over 9,000 words and a pretty good idea of what was going to happen.
And “a pretty good idea” seemed like enough to actually start breaking the story down into scenes.
And, holy cow, that’s a big deal for me. I spent years trying to get to grips with the other novel, and I didn’t get as far as understanding the story well enough to start breaking it down. But this one – this silly little story about a couple of time-travelling lesbians solving a murder – got researched and synopsised in a month.
Hell, it even got broken out into neat little trilogy. The second and third parts are only described very loosely, but it’s enough to guide the beginning, with some wriggle room for when I stray off the outline.
Now that I’ve started breaking the story down into scenes, I want to keep track of my word count. Even though I’m only writing summary paragraphs for each scene, they’ll eventually be expanded and replaced by the story proper.
So, where am I after the first weekend of scene work? I’ve got 741 words in 11 scenes.
I use Ulysses for my writing projects. I find it way more useful, reliable and gorgeous than Scrivener.
Here’s how my Ulysses project looks:
Nothing here is set in stone; not the characters’ names, and certainly not the name of the story. I won’t be ripping off the YouTube video title in the end, but using the title for now helps to keep me in the right mindset.
It’s not a huge word count, because it turns out that working on scenes needs a different mindset to working on story.
Three characters – one protagonist, one supporting character, and one antagonist – have synopses, but that’s not enough to tell you what the story’s opening scene will be, or how to reveal the characters, or… well, a lot.
But still, I’m kinda proud of those 11 scenes. I’m guesstimating 15-20 scenes in the first act, 40-ish scenes in the second, and 10-15 scenes in the third, with a 1,000-ish words per scene. 11 scenes of progress so far ain’t bad.
Now that I’m working on scenes, I feel like I’ve reached something I want to record and share.
Maybe I’ll even have the first draft done by Christmas, and self–published on the major e-book stores early in 2018? That would be cool!
I hope you’ll join me for the ride!
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