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Accountability Post 2021 Week 30

Introduction to the Accountability Post 2021 Week 30

I was on vacation last week from my primary career, which meant I got to relax, right? Well, in a sense, because I really, really like writing these books. My relaxation, in other words, revolved around writing book 2.

If you read 2021 Week 29’s post, you may remember that I had hoped to wrap up Ira Malhotra’s opening scenes on the Indiana, continue fleshing out Liam Martin’s plot turn 1, and further construct Jack Booth’s plot turn 1. As a stretch goal, I wanted to warp up Atticus Porter’s plot turn 1 in preparation for leaping into Pinch 1 for all seven arcs. How’d I do with a whole week to focus on writing?

Let’s start first with the numbers. They tell part of the story.

Accountability Post 2021 Week 30 By the Numbers

A Decent Word Count

Before last week, I’d gotten to 34,657 words. Here’s what I accomplished during vacation week:

I got a lot done, but not as much as I’d hoped!

I ended vacation week with 43,688 words, for a weekly total of 9,031. So, with two or three extra days, I managed to write about 1,000 words fewer than the week before! Did I laze about playing video games?

No. Well, a little. But two major things happened that took time away from writing, yet still contributed to the book. First, in the diagram above, you’ll notice that on July 22, I “spent about 6 hours designing FTMF-1.” That’s short for Fissure Traffic Management Facility-1, which is parked near the 61 Cygni Fissure. I started working on Malhotra’s scenes when I realized one of them would take place within FTMF-1. Trouble was, I only had a stock photo from the internet to represent what the outside of the station looked like. So, I needed some details.

I started with OmniGraffle, which I’ve alternately cursed and praised in these posts. I started cursing again, but once I forced myself to calmly understand the situation, I had to admit that 90% of my frustration was with my lack of experience with OmniGraffle. So, I forced myself to put butt in chair, keep butt in chair, and try to understand how OmniGraffle wanted me to do this.

Here’s the first diagram I ended up with:

Lesson one: Learn how the tools work.

Each section (lozenge? they kinda look like cough drops) is a burrito-like structure 30 meters wide and 60 meters long. No, I don’t call them burritos in the book, but that appeals to my sense of humor, so maybe some of the characters should!

Anyway, that gave me an idea of where to start. This diagram took about 3 or 4 of the 6 hours I invested. Most of that was me learning how OmniGraffle had been designed. As a writer and not a visual artist, the design assumptions hadn’t been clear to me. They still aren’t. But the more I tried to understand the tool, the more progress I made.

Keeping Technology Consistent

I now knew that since Malhotra had been coming from a failed meeting with the EU’s military in the EU Quadrant (see the FTMF-1 diagram above), I wanted her to meet a UN officer somewhere before the TransStell Quadrant’s module where she had docked. So, I had the general idea of the area, but I still wanted a set where they could act out their parts.

I figured out that each burrito has three decks, and I had to design how those fit inside and how they connected to the main structure and each other. That gave me the general outside of the station. During that work, I referred to my designs for the Indiana’s interiors. The Indiana’s compartments are of a standard size. Larger rooms are simply the smaller rooms combined. I wanted that design to support the idea of standardized construction processes, which companies would employ for scaled-up production. So in that way, these stations and ships feel like they inhabit the same world.

Unfortunately, that was still all an outline of the station. Malhotra was headed for her shuttle, which meant she was outside of the burritos. The inner circle connects all of the modules and docks. Each module connects to the adjacent modules, but the inner corridor connects them all. So, knowing that each module has three main connectors into the main corridor, and knowing the approximate curve of the inner hull, I could come up with a rough design for their meeting between modules 1 and 2.

I’m not proud of it, but yes. I cheated.

This was about 5 and a half hours into the the process. I looked at OmniGraffle. It looked at me. We both knew what was about to happen. I picked up some graph paper and sketched the scene. I just don’t have the graphic skills to make that kind of drawing happen. Not yet, anyway!

If I drew it by hand, why did I import it into OmniGraffle? So all of the FTMF-1 diagrams are in one place. Ease of consumption.

Too Much Time for a Single Scene?

Did I spend extravagantly on a single scene? If that had been the only scene I planned in FTMF-1, maybe, though I’d argue the better I can see a scene in my mind’s eye, the more realistically I can portray it. But FTMF-1 and the newer FTMF-2, which has the same design as the FTMF-1, will play a big role in books 2 and 3. I took this chance to bring the station to life.

You know how the Enterprise helped define Star Trek (the original series)? Or how the Koutetsujou helped define Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress? I want the Indiana and the FTMF-1 to do the same thing for these books. To do that, I have to know how they look and feel, so I think the time spent on designing this stuff is an investment in believability.

Designing FTMF-1 wasn’t the only thing I had to do. A lot’s happening in South America, and I had to study the terrain and pick sites in two different countries based on criteria surrounding Liam Martin’s plot. I love using Google Maps and Street View for that kind of work! Again, it helps me visualize what’s going on so I can present a more compelling world. But it takes time, and that’s why I didn’t hit 15,000 or more words this week.

But I’m a great position to write this week!

Oh, I did hit one of my goals: I wrapped up Booth’s Plot Turn 1! I’m happy to say that Arabella Davies took a more active role than I anticipated, and Booth’s character responded! I really like it when my characters take off in the direction of the plot without my conscious mind realizing what they’re doing!

Goals for Next Week

My goals for this week are:

  1. Wrapping up Malhotra’s plot turn 1 scenes. I think I can do it, now that I’ve wrapped up set design!
  2. Complete Martin’s plot turn 1 scenes. I’ve wrapped up the terrain survey and UN troop deployments, so I think this is in reach.
  3. Wrap up Atticus Porter’s plot turn 1. I’m pretty sure I can pull this off, but only if his maid, Catalina Ojeda, behaves herself. She caused trouble for me in her last scene, but in a good way.

Have you struggled with software outside of your areas of expertise? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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