November 2, 2016

Day two

Up to 4505 words now, which is to say I’m exceeding the target. (I usually do. #humblebrag)

Earlier today, I had an interesting time helping someone doctor their own NaNoWriMo story. I’m not going to spoil anything about that since it’s not my story, but it reminded me that I really enjoy hearing other people’s story ideas and helping hammer them out into coherent plots and story arcs.

I think a lot about those arcs in planning my own writing. When I was younger, I was extremely plot-focused to the point where characters were practically secondary tools who lived in service of the plot. It didn’t matter what happened to them as long as my plot beats were hit. Needless to say, this is crummy and I had to do a lot of improvement.

Now, I try to give equal focus to both character arcs and overall story arcs. I work to make them flow naturally from and into one another. What the characters do and what happens to them should have thematic significance. I have to ask how each character will change from the beginning of the story to the end. What have they learned, or failed to learn? What have they gained, or lost? Have they triumphed in the face of adversity, or collapsed into despair? Maybe they just muddled through.

Plot arcs matter, too. The overall story must have something to say both in its trajectory and its details. The Totality series involves quite a bit of world-building, and while I could probably write entire books that are nothing but world-building details, this is not necessary. Instead, there should be enough details that the world feels well-developed.

It’s also a rule of mine that nothing should be easy. Characters can win, but it must come at a price. Conflicts can be resolved, but nobody gets everything they want. The end of one conflict almost always brings the emergence of another. This has been particularly relevant in the planning for Fortress Ghosts, given that the working concept for one of its three major story threads was called “Five Crises.” Those worked out exactly as it sounds: five crises are presented, with the story moving from one to the next. Those crises also play into each other–in some ways, they cause each other. I made a point of this connective tissue in my plan since it’s necessary for those transitions to feel organic. I’m not writing episodes of a TV series. These are long arcs where events ebb and flow and resolutions aren’t always clear-cut.

As far as progress into the book itself goes, I’m still on the first chapter. I had a feeling it would be a long one, although I didn’t expect it to be over 4500 words. At this point I’m guessing it might clock in at 6000 or so. I have yet to outline the entire book on a chapter-by-chapter basis, but if this one is any indication it’s going to be a long book! Oh well. I knew what I was getting into.

Keep writing!