21-Day Challenge: Day 6

MC900434719Today was awesome and productive for me. I hope your day was just as good! I slept in a bit, got up at 9am. I showered and made coffee. Then I went and played on the internet a little, checking messages and reading email. By about 11am I was already cracking in on the story, getting in my first sprints. I took a break for lunch, then back to work again. Sprint - go cruise the forums for a bit - sprint again. Good stuff. About 3pm I was sitting at a little over 3k words, and went to take a nap.

Up, another sprint, then off to a fish and chips dinner out at a local restaurant with Liz. Back home, enjoying an evening together (she'd been working on midterms for grad school side by side with me while I did my sprints earlier). We watched the latest Supergirl episode (it was OK, but the season has had better episodes - overall a good show though) through Amazon. We don't do "appointment TV"; just stuff via Amazon and Netflix. We watch programs when we feel like it, not when the networks happen to have them on. Also saves us $100 a month on the cable TV bill...

By about 10:30 she was getting tired and went to go get some sleep while I got back to work. I spent the next hour hammering out another 2400 words or so.

Total for the day: 6679 (target was 6000)

Total for the challenge: 26,088 words (target was 24,000)

Since Chris was talking a little about plotting in his video today, I thought I would share a bit about how I plotted this book as well. I'm actually trying a new technique, roughly cribbed from a book called The Story Grid. Which is excellent. It's SO good, in fact, that I think it should be considered a "must read" for fiction writers.

Anyway, in The Story Grid the author talks about the structure of plot. He works from a three Act structure, breaking the Acts down into sections of action. Each section then gets broken down into scenes, which can then be further refined into beats.

I didn't go into that much detail in this outline. What I did do was break down the Acts into sections. He calls Act One the "Beginning Hook". Act Two is the "Middle Build". And Act Three is the "Ending Payoff". All makes sense, right? This stuff is straight out of Aristotle. We all learned this in English 101.

But then he breaks each Act down into five stages: Inciting Incident, Complications, Crisis, Climax, and Resolution. What was interesting to me is that he uses the same five stages for each Act. (He's not alone in this. If you've read McKee's "Story", you'll see some similar thoughts there.) The core idea is that each Act is itself a mini-story, a microcosm of the overall story. And that each scene is ALSO a story in itself, with rising action and some sort of climax or "turn" at the end.

It's good stuff. Read the book. ;)

Anyway, Accord of Mars has two first person POVs, same as Accord of Honor. Two major storylines which intertwine. I built the plot by creating a Ulysses template broken down into fifteen chunks - one per section for all three Acts - for each POV, or thirty in all. Then I filled in the details. Thomas is the primary POV, and is getting a lot more words, so I broke some of his stages down into two chapters. I merged a few of Nicholas' (the father's) stages as well - two stages in a single scene can work in some cases. As I've been writing, even more of Thomas' stages are being broken into two or more chapters, which is fine. But the major moments of the story were right there on the outline before I started writing a word.

And I knew what the major stages had to be, because I had a great story structure to work with.

It's a pretty cool system. You might think it was limiting to work this way (that was one concern I had), but I didn't find it so. I've done totally outline-free books sometimes, too, and others with only the barest of outlines. This is more structured than I usually go, but as a result the story feels very strong, very tightly woven.

Will I use it next time? I might. We'll see. Oh yes, the other thing I did today? I fleshed out the three major movements for Accord Book Three. I already had the first one down, but now I know the entire major arc, and it's going to be a great story.

As always, you can sign up for email updates on my progress - click the link below to join and follow along.

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