Status Check: A New Approach and Concordance

Mid-week of the first week back, and while I’m getting a little tired, the ideas and words are seeming to flow out of my fingers just fine, so I’m going to take it. I mean, hell, I’m already 2,000+ words into Entanglements, and I have an erotica story in the pipeline that I need to get going.

One of my more interesting discoveries of late is how much easier it is to write when I’ve eaten well. I’m in the middle of a drastic shift in my perception of food, exercise, and nutrition – a process of changing my lifestyle from top to bottom – and as I continue to make adjustments, I see my energy levels growing and tying into what I’m doing. I mean, I knew that a good night’s sleep helped, but I’m starting to see how nutrition also ties into the whole thing. I start to see how it’s somewhat like how an athlete needs to maintain their body. Obviously not at the same level, but I’m starting to grasp the mind-body connection for the first time in my life. Probably sad that I’m getting it so late, but at least I’m getting it.

But what’s really been intriguing me lately is the change of writing approach that I’ve been undergoing. At the end of Corridors of the Dead, I discovered myself doing something that I had never done before: at the start of each writing session, I took the previous day’s work and started to add details and flesh items out while making minor revisions to stylistic choices, crafting and shaping the text. I wanted to get the climax as perfect as possible on the first run-through, and so I thought the new approach was just a function of that, but as I’ve rolled into Entanglements, I’ve found that the approach is still going on, and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

The realization hit me yesterday that I’m taking my old six- or seven-draft approach and condensing it down, allowing for the “first” draft to be a lot stronger. It certainly explains a lot about why the first draft of Corridors was a lot stronger than previous first drafts. Some of it is internalization of writing rules, but some of it is taking that approach as I go.

This approach should be excellent for Entanglements, since it’s built on a  series of narrative passages with the connective tissue of blog entries and one character’s notes, all of which push the plot along in different ways. There are no traditional chapters, which is going to be a blessing and a curse, I can already tell. It’s going to make keeping track of information even more difficult, and I’m going to have to keep myself two steps ahead of every event in the book. I’ve already had to rethink a few major items in the novel, but I see that as a plus. If it’s in the service of a better story, I can handle the pain. And hey, the new approach gives me a huge advantage in that I can pick up any given blog entry, note, or passage and add to or adapt it.

With that increased complexity and the general complexity of writing a thriller, I think I’m going to have to develop a new tool: the concordance. The concept of the concordance, of course, is that I update it as I finish each “segment”, adding to the store of in-story and in-universe knowledge. Here is the format that I’m using:

Chapter 1-1 (Adshade entry 5-28)

Characters: Adshade, kidnappers, fellow captives

Bull’s-eye: Discovering she’s not the only one.

What do we learn:

Unanswered questions:

I’m sure more information will be added as the novel progresses, but for now, these are the relevant questions.

  • Characters is, of course, self-explanatory.
  • Bull’s-eye pulls from a concept that I mentioned in a recent post. This is the goal of the section that I’m writing; in this case, it’s the punch in the gut of discovering that she’s not the only one who’s been kidnapped by this group.
  • What do we Learn are the pertinent facts; for example, we learn that Adshade works as a contractor, has a cat named Cinders, and is unappreciated at work, among other facts. These may or may not be important, but it’s good to have them all in one place.
  •  Unanswered questions are the questions that are posed by the prose but not answered within that section. An example for this one would be “Who are Adshade99’s captors?”. These are things that generally must be answered. If they aren’t answered, I need a damn good reason for why not, which will be added later in the concordance drafting process.

I’m planning to retroactively create one for Corridors of the Dead as I re-read the story, especially given that there’s a sequel in the offing and every single question and fact will be important, with some used to build on the sequel itself.

I also realized this morning that the concordance can spur on more ideas for the story. Theoretically, I could just write a chapter for a random novel, note it in the concordance, and start drawing ideas from the concordance to tease out a complete story. Theoretically. I’m not ready to take that leap just yet, but it may be something to keep in mind for the future.

I’ll let you guys know as I update the format of the concordance; it may be a tool that others wish to use in their writing, and the more the merrier, I think.

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