News Progress Post

Progress Report 2023 Week 01

I hope you had a pleasant holiday season! I know that I did. I was even able to devote a lot of time to writing! After we talk numbers, I’ll have some news about Evolution’s Hand Book 4: Blind Exodus and Book 5: Darkness Falls. I’ll also have some news about how close I came to hitting my goal from last week!

Progress Report 2023 Week 01 By the Numbers

I wrote way fewer than 10,000 words — but I have an excuse!

My writing efforts in pure numbers came down to 1 chapter and 3,400 words. That doesn’t sound like much. But there’s a good reason for that!

First, I took some time to flesh out some of the sets for Book 5: Darkness Falls. That included the planet Epsilon Eridani II. Turns out there’s a really cool planet generator called, clearly enough, The Planet Map Generator. I used it to generate the basic planet. Then I to come up with the rationale Hans Alder (an antagonist) would use to name the continents, countries, and cities. Within that context, I could build the sets for the interim government buildings and what not.

I also took the time to design the key interior sets for the Kaltzbalger-class carriers. That’s the ship Leon Weber is on. I think the design has some minor innovations that will make it interesting.

My goal last week was to fix a physics problem I’d introduced in Blind Exodus. That meant I had to go through all chapters that dealt with the arcs for Ira Malhotra and James Butler. I also had to touch on key chapters for Matsushita Sachi and Dek Conrad. It wasn’t a full rewrite because I only had to touch on about 30% of the text. But it still took a lot of time.

The good news is that I think I fixed most of that problem, and what I didn’t fix, I’ll catch during the full rewrite in another month or two. But it cleared enough clutter for me to idenity another problem.

A New Problem Appears!

This problem is something I was worried about, but I didn’t quite have the clarity of thought to track it down. In hindsight, it’s really obvious. But, that’s how hind sight works, isn’t it? My first indication that there was a problem was Blind Exodus’s word count. Here’re the counts of the series so far:

  • Executive Action: 156,980
  • Dying Breath: 197,693
  • Primary Target: 169,161
  • Blind Exodus: 130,585

The average of the first three books was 174,000 words or so. Now, I’m not saying each book has to be the same length. But given that the basic format and number of arcs is the same, I think the book being about 40,000 below average was trying to tell me something.

Sometimes, the problems I give myself hide in plain sight. I was spending a lot of time wondering what I’d missed when my wife sent me a link to a video called Storytelling: 6 Essential Questions on the YouTube channel Writing for Screens. I put off watching it, because I figured if I didn’t know something basic or essential by now, I’m pretty much a lost cause.

I finally realized that’s an arrogant mindset. It’s also a stupid mindset. Anyone can teach me something; and I never know how rephrasing even a well-known answer might lead to a deeper understanding. Okay, in the spirit of full disclosure, I only realized that last bit after I watched the video.

The bottom line is that Writing for Screens talked about the try/re-try blocks, and it hit me. The resolution for the Blind Exodus’s main arc is too easy. It doesn’t seem worth it. At least I think I know what I need to do.

If my wife had not sent me that link, who knows how long I would have stewed over it!

Book 5: Darkness Falls

I have three pieces of news for this book. First, I’m probably going to have to rename it. Though titles can’t be copyrighted, I don’t want to use a titles that’s already in my genre. I don’t want to confuse anyone’s readers, including mine! I’m still thinking about what I’m going to call it.

Second, I think I’ve improved my plotting process! I’m still using Dan Well’s discussion on seven point plot structure as my starting point. But I wanted a tool that would help me think more expansively. I’ve been using Apple Numbers to create a plot-braiding worksheet. It worked, but a single spreadsheet cell can only hold so much text.

I did some research and discovered Plottr. I put the trial version through its paces. It looked like it might work, so I decided to try plotting Darkness Falls. Guess what? One of its templates was the seven point plot structure! So, I splurged for the 3 device license.

I think Plottr is going to help me write more complex plots more quickly. Which is good, since I’m trying to write techno-thrillers!

Which brings me to the third piece of news: I’ve starting plotting the fifth book! The last piece I needed was to figure out who the story wanted as its sixth arc. Turns out the character was Mariam Al Khatib, from Jericho, Palestine, and more recently from the UC Berkeley College of Engineering (specifically, Hesse Hall). I have the hooks and resolutions laid out. Now the hard part begins!

Goals for the Week in Progress Report 2023 Week 01

Given my realization about what I’m missing in Blind Exodus, and given I’d like to get the entire first draft done before moving on to another book, here’re my goals for the week:

  1. Begin fleshing out the try/retry cycle for the Sirius Arc
  2. Continue plotting Book 5: Darkness Falls

What Do You Think?

Have you ever gotten to the end and realized your plot needed major work? How did you contain your disappointment? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!