Friday 8th March 2019

February was a busy month, what with two shows to perform in and a holiday. How much writing did I do? None. Zero. Rien du tout. Nichts. Nada.

Am I writing now, in March? Yes ... in the word’s widest sense. I am enjoying an imaginative time working on the outline for The Orison.

I now know...

  • which episode to write next (I had a choice of two events and could not make up my mind), and

  • that there will be around ten episodes altogether, though that may change a little as I work through them, revisiting the outline as I go.

For the outline, I am using a spreadsheet (using Google Sheets) with rows for episodes and columns for the usual things:

  • the cast,

  • plot summary,

  • Gouta’s character development,

  • Gouta’s magic development (hinted at in episode 1. Did you miss it? Many have, and that is intentional).

But also it contains columns for the various world-building aspects I want to dribble out as clues/tidbits in each episode. So I have columns for...

  • Geography

  • Politics

  • Religion

  • The Watch (& what they are up to)

  • Pedr Fawaz (his actions & development) who appears soon, in Episodes 3 and 4.

I will add columns for other characters (actions, development) soon. At the moment they are mere 2-D characters identified in the plot column. Examples are: “Nurse”, “Lawyer”, “Master of House X”, “Mistress of House Y”, “Berghers A, B C”, and so on. These characters appear in later episodes, starting at episode 4.

The outline is now about 30-40% complete. The area of occupied cells approximates a triangle bounded by the left & top edges of the spreadsheet, and a diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right. Every day, that triangle expands towards the bottom right corner of the sheet. Well, ignoring those days I add another column or two!

Outlining is new territory for me despite extensive study. In 2015-17, I read a lot about structure & outlining but then ignored it last year when I wrote my first attempt at “The Orison”: a complete 10,000 word story. That was a total “pantsing” exercise, because this was all I knew from writing very short scripts for drama sketches. The resulting story was still no better than a first draft despite numerous editing phases & partial rewrites (mostly to reduce its length); it exhibited *every* writing & style fault. Every - single - one - of - them! For example, it had too many chunks of exposition (info dumps) explaining why characters or situations had turned out that way. No wonder my first set of beta readers condemned the story as “unfit for human consumption” (my words, not theirs). On the plus side, they agreed it had good ideas, and this gave me the encouragement to try again (with better writing craft) - the result of which is now on the website.

However, last year’s version was not a useless waste. First, I had to find out I “sucked” before I could improve. It is also a reference gold mine for the characters, their actions & events, and for world-building details I want to reveal in the final telling of the story. Episode 1 was my “proof of concept”: an experiment, a trial of my new writer’s craft. It dramatised what had been a small (but boring) info dump in the original story. Positive reader reactions confirmed my new approach is correct: to rewrite the story as episodic events in Gouta’s Life Story in the correct historical order.

Episode 1 was relatively easy to write as it covers a stand-alone event with a 6-yr old’s limited world-view. As the story progresses, Gouta must mature (reaching middle-age), stakes will rise, and consequences will be more significant. So the episodes will become more inter-related. Hence my effort to do a decent outline now. The spreadsheet needs to be more-or-less complete before I can crack on with writing the next couple of episodes. But then I should be able to churn them out. My target is one episode every month towards the end of this year.

Well, that is the plan. Wish me luck.

In other news…

As reported in January’s journal, my science fiction romance story “Sabra” was scheduled to appear in the March edition of Nebula Tales. The publication date has now slipped to May because the magazine has now moved to a quarterly publication schedule.

For more information about the magazine, see their Facebook page.