Writing Process Part 3

OK, bit of a long spell between posts, but that’s what happens when you’re packing up a house to bail and throw it on the market and go pitch a tent wherever you land for the night. And everything in that sentence is literal. I’m going to have a nomadic summer, and it’s going to be amazing.

Back to the writing process.

After I fill out that page with a little blurb for each chapter, I grab a stack of 3×5 note cards. Each card correlates to a chapter, for the most part, but each card absolutely correlates to a SCENE. So if I’m going for 60 chapters, I could end up with a 62-64 cards for those times where there are two scenes in one chapter.

For anything and everything you need to know about scenes, head over to The Story Grid website by Shawn Coyne. In short, each scene breaks down into 5 beats. These beats are things that happen in the global story but also happen in each scene on a more micro level. Each 3×5 card ends up with I – V roman numerals to represent the beats. And I fill out as much of the cards as I can in pencil.

Sometimes things shift around a little or I change course some on the story, but the cards help keep me organized. I don’t type out anything until I have a really good feel for dialogue, actions, etc for each card.

This image below is both one of the most exciting things to see and the most intimidating. Steven Pressfield says” “You’re playing with dynamite when you type Chapter One.” He ain’t kidding.

 

 

 

 

Once I have those note cards and start typing, I can bang out that chapter in no time. For Forgotten Echoes, once I had those index cards done and the story in my head, I could easily write 6 to 8 chapters over the course of a Saturday and Sunday.

So, the story is written, and I fill out my Excel cheat sheet to track scene shifts and story events. I have shifted to cover some of these things on my index cards, but I still do my Excel file version too. I can Ctrl+F in Excel to quickly find something on that spreadsheet vs flipping through 60 cards to find what I’m looking for. The Excel file is a pain but a time saver in the end. Once my Story Grid Excel spreadsheet is filled out (again, see SC’s website for a sample from Silence of the Lambs… brilliant stuff!), now I plot a map.

Each scene is ranked for the hero’s internal and external progress. It’s my own ranking system to judge how things are getting more positive vs more negative. Is she doing well getting what she wants or needs or is she in the crapper? I tend to sketch out the really high and low parts first (in pencil), then fill in the rest. Once I have my scribbles, I go back in with a colored marker to better show which story line is going where.

 

 

 

 

This map is something I did not do for any of the Burnt Mountain books, mostly because I was still learning about the Story Gridding stuff at that point and hadn’t learned enough yet to get into graphing the story.

So, the red line is the hero’s external story – what she wants. The blue line is her internal story – what she needs. This was covered at a high level on the foolscap Global Story Grid back on Part 1. It all comes back around to that.

The good news is that the lines go all over the place. They cross a few times, peak when things are going well for the hero and crash when the hero’s world comes crashing down (the second plot point that kicks off the start of the climax around the 75% mark). Near the end you can see that the hero makes another spike in getting what she needs while losing what she wants (blue line goes up, red line goes down). The lines cross again, and at the very end she’s ultimately a bit higher/above the baseline for both internal and external than when she started.

If the lines were all gently sloping here and there, that would be a bit of a boring read. Below is the cover of Coyne’s book. The lines are his grid of Silence of the Lambs. There are some serious zig-zagging and significant separations in the lines where Clarice Starling’s internal and external story lines go haywire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that covers the super quick, super high level process of what I’ve been doing with the new trilogy. Yep, Forgotten Echoes will end up being a three-fer. More to come on that as things develop. Currently it is with my last test reader, and I’m seriously looking forward to getting back into my writing groove once I am moved out of the house which is imminent. Yay!

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