Yesterday was probably the longest amount of time I’ve put into a story since I did NaNoWriMo. And there was very little writing, if you can believe that.
See, it’s like this: when I set up a story I like to get everything straight in my head. And while I was doing yesterday’s blog post–before it, really–I stared wondering about things like, “When did this happen?” and “How long will class schedules last on this world where the story takes place?” You know, crazy things like that. The sort of stuff some writers get to doing when they have nothing else to do.
So I got to work. The first issue of the day was to get a calendar for 3184 ready–yes, you read that right. I needed one because I had to count up so weeks. Back in the days when I started Transporting, I figured out the orbit for this planet where the main characters live, and since I also knew how long it took the planet to rotate, I could do a few calculations and get how many of their days there were. When you know that, you have a calendar.
Only problem was Scrivener didn’t like the tables I’d created for my calendar. The tables kept–I don’t know, dissolving, or something. It was driving me nuts, it was. I finally figured out how to keep the table formatting so my calender looked nice and neat, but that took me the better part of about three hours. And I just checked my calendars–still lookin’ good. Bellissimo!
So once I had a calendar, figuring out the school semester length wasn’t a big deal. I came up with three of eleven weeks each, proving the school was likely established by an ancestor of Nigel Tufnel. One interesting thing that came up: after the fall semester, there you have about six weeks off until the beginning of the next semester–due in part to a number of holidays still being celebrated at year’s end. So that time is used for “Independent Study”, which is a fancy way of saying, “You want extra credit towards graduation? You can take some extra classes here.”
So with that out of the way, I began putting the story together–which means I start setting up note cards in Scrivener that, basically, are a scene in the story that stands alone as a chapter or part. Since I know some of these scenes aren’t going to be very long–maybe five hundred, six hundred words–I set up the heading of each card as “Part XX”. Then I put some description on each card, a place and date, so I have an overview what’s happening, and where and when said things go down.
Ready to plot this sucker–right? Wrong.
There’s an important part of the story that involves two of the characters in the story heading off into space for a couple of days to set up an impromptu stellar observatory. Now, originally, I have them observing a nova, but back in my day, when I first started putting this story together, nova didn’t mean what I thought it meant. I still wanted this event to occur in what is currently the constellation of Draco, so that meant one thing–research!
Oh, yeah. Lots of peering over tables looking for something that would catch my eye, the right combination of stars . . . and then I hit upon it: CQ Dra (CQ Draconis), which, in the parlance of those who study these things, is a cataclysmic variable. So I have my event–
And I did something else. Check this out . . .
What is this, you say? It’s the night sky of the world where my story takes place. Specifically, it’s the north polar view of the sky. See that little yellow circle in the upper left-hand corner? That’s Sol, aka, Our Sun, and where it would appear in the sky. Believe it or not, the location of the Sun in this night sky is an important scene in my novel Transporting, and now I gotta go back and make sure I have that scene right, because something about that is nagging me. If not, I gotta retcon the scene a bit to bring it in line.
I also have to adjust–how to say this?–a really, super, important plot element in this story! I’ve got it figured out, but this also leads back to a little retconing in Transporting, again, because I used a similar element there, and that particular element is now pretty discredited as far as being science fact.
After all of that was put by the wayside, I began plotting . . . and plotting . . . and it took a lot more time than I’d figured. Part of it was remembering everything I wrote before, and putting that into the context of updating the story, and making it about three people. So I needed to think about the flow of the story, and what was going to happen–and from those ideas, what scenes were needed.
But in the end, with one eye on a made up calendar, and the other on my story cards, I finished it up after a few more hours of work. What does that work look like, you ask? Gander your eyes upon this:
At the end of the night, after many hours of work, this is my Scrivener layout for the story, Diners at the Memory’s End. This is how all my stories are, short–ha!–or novel-sized. For what I figured will be a fifteen to twenty thousand word story, this is probably the most involved I’ve gotten in getting it laid out. That’s likely because this story actually . . . should I say it means something to me? Because this was actually the first one I wrote for an audience, and since then, I’ve learned a hell of a lot about writing. Yes, my Muse, you helped me there–I love you, sweetie!
Only one thing left to do now:
Take all those “To Do” labels, and turn them into “First Draft”.
That shouldn’t be too hard . . .