|Courtesy of http://franckernewein.com/|
I have been working on a techno fantasy novel called Darklight.
A rag tag group from the old empire have fled into mysterious tunnels underneath the city. It is there that the former head of the royal guard, the slain king’s old advisor, a sneaky thief, and a political prisoner plot to rise up and overthrow the violent dictator that has conquered the realm.
Where did it come from?
It is something I first wrote over 20 years ago when I was a teenager. At the time, it was more like a jumble of ideas cluttered together in my head that I managed to type into an antique computer. Even though I wrote at least 40 pages, it was never close to complete. It was cluttered and unstructured with no end in sight. But it contained a world I had imagined along with a handful of distinct characters, science fiction, and magic, and that world has never left me.
Since then, I would think off and on about sitting down and revisiting it. But it wasn’t until about two years ago that I finally got serious. I started writing down some of these ideas. Back when I wrote the original, I was still in high school. Now that I have actually published two technical books, and written a lot more in my professional career, I feel that that my writing ability has matured much more as well. So I started doing my homework.
I kicked things off by making a list of my characters. Some of them were from the original, but I needed more. As I put more detail into each character, and I determined what their role would be, things became more concrete. I started writing back stories for everyone. I wanted to understand these characters inside and out. Some of the best books I have read (Dune, The Foundation series, Lord of the Rings, Jack Ryan series) have incredibly deep characters with realistic personalities, abilities, and faults. This inspired me to get real and understand my own characters.
Then I made an amazing discovery. I read about the beat sheet. It’s a fancy expression for an outline. In this case, I built it with a spreadsheet. And then it got HARD. In fact, I stalled out for 11 months. I tried to go back to writing organically a couple times, but I kept hitting awkward situations in my story. There was one situation I couldn’t get past, because I didn’t believe it myself. A few months ago, that logjam broke in my mind, and I realized what was needed. Other things started falling into place. But getting back in the saddle was tough, and required me to stop, sit down, and get active again.
So two weeks ago, I went back, re-read that article about the beat sheet, and for further motivation, read the ancillary article about the snowflake method. I dove in head first, and started by boiling my entire story into single sentence summary. I stretched it into two sentences. Next, I expanded it into three paragraphs (one for each major act) with a climax. Then I crafted a fresh spreadsheet, and started putting in scenes, making them line up with my summaries. I had already written detailed character back stories, so I skipped that part of the snowflake method.
Guess what. It was still HARD. I had fixed one logjam, only to discover there was another. And another. And another. But this time, I was more motivated and making progress, so I didn’t stop. I realized there were some plot points I hadn’t thought about. I needed to hammer them out before I could write. Well I did. After beating my head against the wall for ten straight days, I finally had a full idea of how the entire story would flow nicely captured in my beat sheet. I had managed to interleave the different points of view, so that scenes would transition and generate the tension I wanted. I felt energized!
When Randy Igermanson, aka the Snowflake Guy, said this process would be hard, he wasn’t kidding. This process forces you to work out everything. But since then, the story has been flying out of my fingers, and what I visualized 20 years ago seems to coming alive. It has me excited!
Calling all beta readers
I decided to take a big gamble and share this on my blog site, because I am taking another big step as I work on the first draft: recruiting beta readers. If you have actually stumbled upon my blog site, found this entry, and read all the way to the bottom, you are probably among a rare group. If the genre of techno fantasy or the summary above sound interesting, you can leave me a note or contact me on twitter. If you want to stay posted on this, just check the tag “darklight”. I might add a shortcut on the sidebars. Stay tuned!
P.S. The title of this post is a hat tip to Daniel Marvello, author of Vaetra Unveiled and my first officially recruited beta reader, as I decided to unveil my fiction writing plans to my handful of readers.
Thanks for the hat tip, Greg. When I first learned about the Snowflake Method and beat sheets myself, I felt like the clouds had parted and I was finally able to see the light. I’m happy to report that going into the light did actually take me to a better place. 😉
I look forward to beta reading “Darklight.”