Week 6: The Trek-Outlining is Essential!

With Thanksgiving tomorrow on my regular posting day, this week, instead of skipping a week, I decided to post early! The Holidays are always crazy for me, but I’m not going to skip on writing! I’ll be doing my regular December challenge, something I’ve been doing for several years now, and my goal is to write over a hundred pages in December! I succeeded two years ago, finishing book 11 by the first week of January before I returned to Scotland.

That being said, Book 11, TS: Supernova, was the longest, most daunting project I ever worked on in The Shadows series! Not only did the plot get so long that I had to split the book in two, creating book 10 TS:Kindred’s Lies but it introduced the very first true cliff hanger I’d ever written at the end of the book. Supernova is one of my favorite books in the series, I took the most risks with the story, challenged my writing style, set the book in a new genre setting and set in motion very real and slow paced changes in the main character Iszeldier.

But what’s so special about it? 800 pages of high-fantasy set in the middle of a sci-fi series, why is that even necessary? I love it because it’s a trek. The book is about the journey, not about some mystery or fighting some evil, it’s about the ground on which you walk, where your only enemy is the earth. I love these kinds of stories, I love watching the journey unfold, how characters change with each challenge they face, and how in many cases they come of age.

Notable trek stories of my childhood include stories of survival like Milo and Otis, Swiss Family Robinson, and Eragon. Each character we follow along the way, struggles, encountering sometimes random new things that they either learn from, or are never spoken of again, some are important, some are just a fallen tree to step over. It’s the little things I love, the triviality in between, and not as much the outcome.

The first time I wrote a trek was book 3, Halo’s Rag Doll, and to this day it’s still my favorite book, before TS:SN. HRD was the step I took after finishing Laevatein’s Choice, and my long break in between computers that I spoke of in my last blog. Week 5: The Self Insert. I had redirected, outlined the next four books, and actually set down plans for the series as a whole. So this was the first book I had actually, you know… planned.

HRD challenged my ability to outline as well as helped me learn how to get all my ideas across without dragging the plot through the mud to take a side story. A trek is a good place to experiment with this, because after your side quest is done, it’s easy to get back on the main trail, and if you can’t find the trail, well add that to the story! “characters get lost, must find way back”

HRD was basically written in eight parts:

  1. The introduction and start on the path
  2. 1st gate keeper: the first challenge and the call to action
    1. introduction to the titular characters, Mark, Sil, and Kip.
  3.  2nd gate keeper: establishing danger
    1. character development for Kip revealing he’s sick
    2. Character development for Sil who gets a new Shadow
  4. 3rd gate keeper: Foreshadowing and prophesy
    1. reminding the audience of the danger
    2. introducing “the figure of the field” a future obstacle
  5. 4th gate keeper: recovery from the first encounter
    1. keep the characters on edge, several injuries
    2. introduction to the Novas
    3. triumph and rewards to restore confidence in the mission
  6. 5th gate keeper:
    1. day of rest and soul searching
    2. Mark discovers Kip is sick and forces him to rest
    3. introduction to the D-Shadows
    4. foreshadowing main villain
  7. 6th gate keeper:
    1. Group split up
    2. character development for January and Sil
  8. 7th gate keeper:
    1. Answers to many questions and new questions
    2. fulfillment of the mission
    3. Return home

This most certainly isn’t the groundwork for all trek stories, but this is just the layout I used for HRD, and it felt so clean and easy to follow, I just had to do another trek story. While HRD was a smooth 250 pages, SN is over 800 pages long! And the plot is much more complicated. Granted, I spent two books building up the universe in which SN resided so that when SN began the audience would start reading with a generally good idea of where the plot stood. SN does not stand alone, whereas HRD was set a full two years after LC.

I split SN into two whole sections at about the middle, the Trek, and the Battle. Right off the bat I started with separating the characters.

  1. Separation
    1. Caelan and his brothers
    2. William and the Shadows
    3. Irwin being tortured
  2. Danger
    1. Caelan’s brother is severely injured
    2. William and the Shadows are stranded
    3. Irwin faces hallucinations
    4. Iszeldier is kidnapped to Lucis de Caelum
  3. Mission or goal: Reach Lucis de Caelum
    1. Caelan’s brother, Perry, believes the emperor will heal his wounded arm
    2. William is certain everything is a misunderstanding, faces his naivety
    3. Iszeldier is being turned into a Nova and must train to fight Shadows
  4. Side Quests:
    1. Caelan battles his instincts to hunt
    2. Jason and other Shadows are kidnapped by slave traders
      1. must survive until they’re rescued
      2. must hide powers while they’re growing stronger
      3. dealing with memories of his past trauma
      4. falling in love with Myriad
    3. Iszeldier befriends Nymph
    4. Ira breaks Irwin’s legs
  5. Result of side quests:
    1. Caelan almost attacks his brother
    2. Perry decides to amputate his arm
    3. Jason is rescued and practices his new powers
    4. Iszeldier fights for control over his body, and to learn Nymphs secrets

And of course, Part 2! In the late middle of this book, something very traumatic happens to Iszeldier, solidifying his role as a weapon, a nova, and foreshadowing his incredible powers.

  1. Iszeldier’s changes
    1. he learns how to control the Nova Realm, affect plants, and levitate some objects
    2. He brutally defeats Nymph in a spar, foreshadowing the violence he’s capable of
    3. he renounces his darker side and protects Nymph, growing closer to him and finally learning his true identity.
  2. The Arrival at Lucis de Caelum
    1. Perry learns the Emperor won’t restore his arm
    2. the shadows reunite and form a plan
    3. Iszeldier becomes a Nova
  3. Poor Execution of the plan
    1. Mark abandons the Shadows to rescue Irwin
    2. William reunites with his father to see how beaten he is and finally faces Ira as a much wiser person.
    3. Shadows storm the castle and fail to fight Ira.
    4. Oh and Mark gets his eye gouged out! (Thanks Jo for the great idea)
  4. Conclusion
    1. They defeat Ira
    2. they return home
    3. they face the aftermath.

And that my friends it over 100 pages of outline condensed into 9 points! After HRD I wrote bullet outlines of every single book I’d written so far! I color code each scene, and my longest outline was over 160 pages long! (TS:Re-Star). It doesn’t matter how you outline, or what system you use, just the act of condensing the ideas in your mind to short, grammatically incorrect phrases tremendously helps the writing process. It keeps your scenes organized, the plot streamlines, and on course. You can always blow through an outline then go back an add side-quests, as long as you go back to the path eventually.

To those participating in NaNoWriMo this year! I know the amount of work that goes into every novel, but I hope you’ve taken the time to outline and recognized how valuable the outline is to your story! Of course I’m staring at the outline for Dragons on Skye thinking: “where on earth did the bullet points go missing!” the outline for DoS is literally eighteen pages of big paragraphs and run-on sentences. but at least I still know where the story is going… I think…

Best of luck to the NaNoWriMo people out there! I hope you’re all reaching your daily goals!

 

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