The theme in my July post was that doing the obvious helped me move A Ghast in the Machine’s beats forward. I have the dubious honor of building on that theme, but at least this time lesson is a little less obvious.
But first, I want to go over some numbers to figure out if the obvious continues to work.
Let’s compare the numbers as of noon on September 7, 2020 to the numbers from July 19th, 2002:
|Category||July 2020||September 2020|
|Number of Beats||32||54|
|Total Hours Invested||64.25||93.25|
In about 6 weeks, I wrote 22 beats during 29 hours of work. The short version is that the obvious continues to work! The longer version is that I’d like to improve that ratio, but I have an explanation for why it’s taking so long. It’s that slightly less obvious thing I mentioned before.
I’ll start with a reminder from my July post: world building drives beats, at least to some extent. I was struggling with the arc that followed the TEF Indiana’s trip to 61 Cygni. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to happen, but I hadn’t worked up some of the key details. As I tried to write the beats, the characters, particularly Director Linda Southfield, started to rebel, a lot like Melchizedek “Dek” Conrad did, as I discussed in my February 2020 post. Dek had taught me to listen to my characters, so I did. After reflection, I realized two things.
First, I hadn’t fleshed out the Indiana’s design. That meant I couldn’t visual the space my characters were in, and neither could my characters. So, I spent several hours fleshing out the ship’s internal floor plan, since I already had a general idea of the outside.
If I couldn’t visualize the space, I couldn’t expect my characters to, either. So I spent some time building out the interior design of the Indiana. OmniGraffle to the rescue!
I also knew what I wanted to dramatically accomplish in that arc, but I didn’t have something that would be the basis for such an expensive and historical mission. I hadn’t come up with mission objectives!
Since some of the characters were supposed to be well-versed in space flight and business operations, they were kinda disappointed in me. So, I came up with mission objectives. That gave a logical structure to how the plot unfolded. The characters now had goals to give them focus.
This also informed some beats I’d already finished. I already had some chapters defined that covered pre-mission training. Now, those beats, too, had a better organization.
The characters could now move around in an environment that would be consistent and help me establish a sense of place. I had a mission plan. But there was one more piece missing. If I was going to have a mission in a new star system, I had to know more about the star system!
Yes. It’s obvious. The only excuse I’ll offer is that there’s quite a lot going on, and I just missed this part.
To be honest, I realized the need for this even as I built out the mission plan.
I had to build the star system, and since it was a binary, I had to look up how planets would or could orbit a binary star system. That was a lot of fun. So was looking up the different kinds of asteroids, as those details played a role, too. I even researched Greek mythology to get an idea of how to name 61 Cygni A and its planets, which brought the International Astronomical Union into the picture. I never know when a little detail like that could make a scene more realistic, so I like to have them handy.
The biggest takeaway from the last six weeks was almost as obvious as the idea that focus works. In fact, it might even be an application of that idea. The lesson this time?
I had to skip one weekend of writing for reasons. The next time I tried to work with the story, I had to spend at least an hour reminding myself where I was. Even when I’m writing beats, there are ideas or details that don’t make it into Scrivener. Coming back up to speed is dead time. Even when I’m working on interior starship design, I’m contributing directly to the novel’s completion. But when I’m fumbling around, trying to remember where I was? Not so much.
The lesson, then, is that even if I don’t have much time to write, taking just 30 minutes to read over what I’ve already written will preserve my momentum.
I’m happy that I’m making progress. Arranging my Crow’s World of Anime anime review schedule to preserve my weekend mornings for working on my novels has helped me make a lot of progress so far. I think I’ll continue that approach, at least until I can come up with a better idea.
I’d like to make more progress. On the other hand, I don’t want to discount the progress I’m making. So, we’ll see how the next weeks go!
What do you track about your writing to gauge your progress? What tools do you use? If you’re so inclined, please do let me know in the comments!