I’m using my two current fiction WIPs to redesign my writing process.
Think Ink is how I’m keeping track of it all.
So far, I’ve looked at where Diana: Lady of Synn came from and how I got to where I am now. I started by blogging through the development of the first draft. Then I talked about the difference between what it was supposed to be and what I ended up with.
Next, I talked about a change in my philosophical approach to storytelling and a lesson I learned while putting this draft together.
More practically, I came up with an idea to use Trello boards as a problem-solving tool, showed some example Trello boards and an updated version of Diana’s board with some contextual details. The timing of Diana’s arc is weird right now, so I had to come up with a plan.
While I was doing that, I had a conversation with Hannah about the timing of certain events in the characters’early childhood that caused a lot of unintentional damage. I know that emotional scars and wounds can be useful to a writer, but this wasn’t THAT kind of damage. They became collateral damage in a series of their parents’ unresolved magical problems and world affairs that took said parents away when they shouldn’t have had to go. It was just a bunch of things that prevented the girls from receiving the attention and development that they needed and led them to feel isolated and confused about things I didn’t want them to have so much trouble with. I could have just gone with it, but doing that would have made the series a lot more teen-angsty than I’m comfortable writing, and frankly I’ve seen that kind of “accidentally neglected child of powerful parents” story 100 times. I don’t need to write another one.
For those just checking in, The Foxes of Synn is a serial science fantasy series loosely based on role-play that I’ve done with my friend Hannah. Most of the characters, setting, and concepts are mine, but Reynard the Fox and a few of the other key players are Hannah’s creations. Reynard enjoys helping his kits with their plans and schemes, and so far has appeared in all but one of the stories. I’m thinking of changing the series title of the girls’ arc from The Fox Sisters to Reynard’s Daughters, but the girls tell me that there’s a licensing fee for the use of the family name and Reynard’s likeness.
Originally, Thad Malimore and Reynard the Fox had relatively minor roles. Thad was the wise old mentor, and Reynard was his bodyguard/warrior. The main characters were a witch named Marigold and her warrior husband, Judah. I was aiming for traditional publishing at the time, and the story was much more in line with what you would expect from a standard low fantasy adventure novel. It was supposed to be a one-off that I could use to build my publishing credits. Well, once I got it out of the outline stage, I realize that it had way too much in common with The Eye of the World and some early Magic The Gathering novels. And I didn’t care enough about the whole thing to invest the time in changing that. It wasn’t reflective of me, as an author, nor was it reflective of Synn on a whole, because I had been trying to minimize or play down the “science fiction” aspects of the verse in order to sell it as a fantasy novel. Marigold is an interesting character, and I would like to write about her someday, but the only part of her story that I really liked was the fact that she was a woman doing the things traditionally handled by a male protagonist in fantasy novels. “My protagonist is female” is not enough to make a novel worth writing.
Hannah and I had agreed to role-play some of Thad and Reynard’s private life as “background,” but the more we did, the more their lives turned out to be tied in to important worldbuilding elements and plot arcs that were more interesting than the one I was trying to write. Their kids were also more interesting to me than Marigold and Judah, who, while I like them, are pretty standard fantasy characters who lean heavily on their tropes.
(Note: to those who keep trying to get me to write for markets–this is what happens. I get stuff I JUST DON’T WANT to invest years into writing.) But timing was a huge issue because Hannah and I had squished way too much into our roleplay cycles, figuring it would never matter.
This is a slightly exaggerated reproduction of what the original timeline looked like:
That was based on roughly 3 years of role-play that I used to help me build Synn and its child-worlds. Last year, I decided to start prepping for publication of the serial, and I realized that the timeline was never going to work. So, I redid it using a combination of Wordpad and Aeon timeline.
After that conversation with Hannah,, I spent most of last week merging various versions of the Synn timeline and then tweaking it to get the best possible outcomes for as many of the characters as I could. Most of what I changed was backstory elements. There was one major plot arc that I entirely took out of the girls’stories and gave to their parents instead. It doesn’t affect anything that I’ve published so far, and it will actually help me by freeing up more space in the timeline for the girls to develop separate arcs.
What follows below is a sections of my notes and a screenshot of the new timeline I put together in Trello. Tomorrow I’ll go over the steps I took to make the timeline and h how they differ from my usual approach. I know a few of my friends struggle with maintaining timelines and keeping track of the timing of their story events when the story spans more than a few weeks, so hopefully this will be useful.
I added a longer span of time between when the Marigold/Judah/demons in Arcanion thing ended and when the kits were born.
Thad, Reynard, and Micah spend some of that time traveling (longer than before, related to research I wanted them to do for the kits and some other stuff.)
Then they came home, and I put in all the stuff with Sufi and Disremember and everything before the kits were around (which should help a lot because everybody felt like they were being pulled in 27 different directions and the kits were always having parents lock themselves away for days and days when they were really young.)
I also added a larger age gap between the girls and the boys, because it seems like the biggest problem is always that they feel all this pressure to relate to one another as peers and “be friends” but they ACT like almost different generations and have little in common. The way I have it set up, the girls will have been mostly out of the house by the time Todd was ten, and that should help his issues with Thad and various insecurities because there really wouldn’t BE anyone else around to take up Thad’s attention at the age when he’d probably want it most and be unable to ask for it if there are 27 other people competing for it, and nobody will feel like something’s weird/wrong if they’re not “friends” because they wouldn’t be peers anyway.
So far, this has helped a lot. Hannah and I spent the week role-playing a ret-con of the kits’ backstory. I think it’s working much more as I intended now, although I’m really not any closer to integrating the girls. They’re still basically the same characters, with the same interpersonal problems and flaws, but their internal make-ups are more stable and they feel more confident and have a better grasp of which parts of them are fox-instinct, which are magic, and which are within the “normal” range of human behavior, so it’s less confusing and overwhelming for them and therefore easier for me to tackle their internal arcs in the narrative without the story coming apart.
Here’s a list of posts in the series, plus some older ones connected to my writing process.
- Herding Muses: On Pre-Writing Strategies For Nonlinear Writers (5/21/2014)
- How I Write Fiction: The Cheater’s Guide (7/17/2014)
- How I Write Fiction: Short Stories That Stay Short (7/21/2014)
- Opinions, Please… (7/25/2015)
- Teaser: Diana Lady of Synn Action Figures! (7/27/2015)
- Extra: Diana Lady of Synn Art Layers (8/1/2015)
- Progress: Diana Lady of Synn (8/4/2015)
- Progress: Diana Lady of Synn (8/10/2015)
- Progress: Diana Lady of Synn, plus personal updates. (8/18/2015)
- Progress: Diana Lady of Synn (9/1/2015)
- A Writing Ramble (9/2/2015)
- Progress: Diana Lady of Synn And Blog Plans for the Fall (9/7/2015)
- Think Ink # 1, A Writing Ramble (9/8/2015)
- Think Ink #2: Emotional Arc Issues (9/9/2015)
- Think Ink #3, Using What I Have (9/10/2015)
- Think Ink #4, Love It When A Plan Comes Together (9/11/2015)
- Think Ink #5, Trello and Collaborative Writing (9/12/2015)
- Think Ink #6, Trello Followup (9/13/2015)
- Think Ink #7, Cyclical Worldbuilding (9/21/2015)
- Think Ink #8, The Weirdness Quotient, or Fun and Games Vs. Story (9/22/2015)
- Think Ink #9, Timelines (9/23/2015)
- Think Ink #10, Chronology and Character Development Vs. Story (9/24/2015)
- Think Ink #11, Timelines, Collaboration and Confusion (9/25/2015)
- Think Ink #12, Timelines and Trello (9/28/2015)
- Think Ink #13, Taking Stock. (9/29/2015)
- Think Ink #14, Unlearning How to Structure A Story (10/6/2015)
- Think Ink #15, Unlearning Structure, Part 2 (10/7/2015)
- Think Ink #16, Relearning How to Structure A Story (10/8/2015)
- Think Ink #17, Story Structure and Revision (10/9/2015)