It’s a little weird. For most of the past week, I’ve been writing in great detail about a place I’ve never been (and, thanks to the pandemic, am unlikely to see before the book is published).
Fortunately I have friends who live there, and they’ve been extremely helpful. And, of course, this is fiction, so I can play with the details. But I seem to enjoy the process more, and find more inspiration, when I try to make the story play out in the real world. So I’ve been visiting parks, cycle paths, shows, and restaurants virtually. I’m starting to feel like I know my way around.
We’re up over a hundred pages now. It’s really starting to feel like a book.
I had an interesting insight into Shelly today. I hadn’t made the connection before, because SHELLY hasn’t make the connection. But, viewing things from the outside, some of her thoughts and actions are starting to make more sense. You’ll probably understand when you read the book. I put a bit of symbolism in there to underline it – see if you catch it.
It’s funny, because readers will probably assume it was all planned. But, until today, I’d just been documenting Shelly’s feelings and reactions without really understanding where it’s all coming from.
I love this part of the writing process – when something suddenly goes “click”!
Quick update. Shelly and Alan have made it through Boot Camp and are hanging out in Florida with friends. It’s very motivating to see the page count growing. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m really enjoying this section.During storyline work, I re-watched the entire Worlock Foxtrot Boot Camp video. The last couple of weeks I’ve watched several of the session in great detail. I’m learning a lot!
Remember that the new working title of “Book #3” is “All the Way Home”. Thanks to the generosity of Glen and Helen Arceneaux, and of Curt and Tammy Worlock, who performed the dance and OK’ed the post, we can finally show you the title dance. Choreography by Christine & Theron Hixson:
We have a working title! It’s “All the Way Home”. This dance plays an important role in the book and the title of the dance fits well with the overall theme of the book.
This won’t necessarily be the book’s title. Titles often change as books evolve (At’s Amore’s working title was “Cuando”), but I’ve got a feeling this one is going to stick.
I’ve written elsewhere (here and here) about the impact a name has on the development of a character. Before the character has a name, it is pretty maleable. You can make the character nicer, or meaner, or taller, or shorter. But, for me, once the character has a name, it becomes “real”. Some set of neurons in my brain gets assigned to “be” that character and the character begins to develop like a person. I can no longer make wholesale changes. In fact, sometimes the character grows in unexpected ways. It all starts with the name.
I wonder if book titles have the same effect? “Cuando” was never a particularly good fit, so the book never really bent itself around the name. But “All the Way Home”… We’ll see.
Lots of progress on the story line. I got another lesson in how much better it is to have a partner. I came down all excited about a new idea that might help bridge two chapters. I told Jean, and she suggested an alternative which was much better. A little back and forth and we ended up with a third way that was better than either.
Besides, it’s fun!
We’re down to the last couple of “Needs Work” sections of the story outline now. Then it’ll be time to “boot” Alan, Shelly, et al back up by re-reading both books. Can’t wait!
Some readers may not know that I (Paul) am an engineer. I spent the final 12 years of my career as a consultant, billing by the hour, so tracking the time I spend on particular projects is a well-engrained habit.
Since I started The Bicycle Waltz while I was still actively consulting, I naturally built spreadsheets to track my time.
The format evolved over time. Here’s what one of those spreadsheets looked like on At’s Amore:
By then, I was logging actual writing time separately from editing time or research time.
But, being an engineer, I wanted to better understand and measure the process. So, I started maintaining spreadsheets to track word counts on a weekly basis.
Here’s what one of those spreadsheets looked like on At’s Amore (prior to chapterization):
This is what happens when you let engineers write books.
Every Sunday (my writing “day off”), I would collect the latest word count data and combine it with my time logs to generate measures like “words per writing hour” and “words per total hour”.
At the time, I was just curious about the process. I soon found, however, that these Sunday “rollups” were very motivating. If I didn’t put in my hour (or more) a day during the week, it would stick out in the rollup like a sore thumb. And seeing the word count grow each week turned out to be highly motivating.
This time, I’m tracking the story development time as well. Seeing my time log grow is helpful, but turning N’s (not ready) into R’s (ready) in the outline is the most satisfying of all!
The storyline for the book is coming together very quickly. I keep track of the status of each part of the storyline in a spreadsheet. Here’s the “status” column of the chapters/scenes (chapter/scene titles deleted):
R = Ready
M = Mostly Ready
N = Not Read
W = Waiting for more info
As you can see, a substantial number of blocks are either Ready or Mostly Ready.
At this point, we’re focusing on clearing those “N’s”. “M’s” are OK – that usually means there are a few details to be worked out or looked up.
Although I keep track of status, wordcounts, etc in spreadsheets, I use OneNote to organize the storyline:
You can see that the story is broken into 3 parts, and under each part is a chapter/scene. It’s difficult at this stage to tell exactly where the chapter breaks will be. As a general rule, each new “scene” will likely end up as a chapter, but there can be cases where a single scene spans multiple chapters or, more often, multiple related scenes form a single chapter.
Right now, it’s all about the story, not about the structure. And the story is coming along very nicely.