Lately I have been feeling a bit off. Waiting on the grand dump of constructive commentary for my manuscript, I have tried to practice Active Waiting, starting and developing new outlines for future projects between emails from my editor. This has not felt satisfying, and my ability to sit at the computer and work on an outline – knowing that the story that is its foundation is potentially in flux – has suffered. Asimov Hour has suffered.
I’m sure the argument can be made that Asimov Hour only suffers because I allow it to suffer. My attitude toward my work was slipping into a very negative place. I couldn’t review my work and edit because I was so sure it was all crap. It was all going to have to be rewritten. There was no point in working on anything because the great Mjölnir of rewrite was poised over top of the project.
Through some personal work, replenishing my energy, and some other health-related efforts, I have brought my attitude back up, and am eager to resume my work.
My editor is going to GenCon and is basically available only for minimal contact until August 8th (at which point he and I will both be playing No Man’s Sky and not really ‘available’ again until August 11th). I am still working my way through the reading list he gave me (watching character-to-character dialog, and dialogue segues to exposition), but reading isn’t quite the same as revising, even if it is clearly setting me up to revise later on.
Before he went dark, I asked for some more feedback, something to keep me busy and focused on my first draft.
I was instructed:
“I want you to map every named character’s arc.”
I used a Numbers (Mac) file to set up a line graph and plotted lines for Physical, Mental, and Social states for each chapter of the book.
Since it’s likely to change, and it’s not exactly a spoiler, here’s the plotted graph for my main protagonist.
The assignment is to map out all the named characters and see who’s doing what, or not doing what, and watch for plateaus. To make sure there’s enough meat to the chapters, enough at stake to the characters, or enough response to whatever’s happening.
This lets me analyze what’s happening compared to what I intended and how I intended.
By my calculations, I have named 17 individuals in the story (I’ll probably find more as I go), and while some of them appear for only a very short time (and therefore only their social line will likely move), a number of them will involve quite a lot of analysis to plot out. My protagonist took me almost a full week – though admittedly I was oversleeping a lot and not getting in more than 15-25 minutes at a time for my Asimov Hour.
So that’s where my process is at the moment. Charting, and assigned reading. It will certainly keep me busy. I’m imposing the self-assigned deadline of August 9th for completing the charts. This will force me to pick up the pace, re-dedicate my time to Asimov Hour (which has lately been a misnomer), and squeeze more time out of my day for the project. I’m happy to say it’s something I can (somewhat) successfully do in front of the TV, and that I was able to get in some time last night on the second character. That this deadline coordinates with the release of No Man’s Sky is, I assure you, mere coincidence.
Bonus: K. M. Weiland has a fantastic series of blog posts about constructing character arcs.