I'll be keeping a running journal here of how things are going, and the process I follow (so that I can learn from my mistakes, and/or share my success with others).
A brief recap so far:
- Formed my general idea about a year ago, and have been gradually circling in on the spine of the story since then
- In August, I wrote a very high level outline (following the method detailed in John Franklin's "Writing for Story")
- I started at the end, which for me has so far been the hardest part of a story
- Once I imagined an ending that I liked, I wrote down a beginning that seemed far from that
- I then filled in a few of the middle bits
- After letting that sink in, I spent September putting these events into Freemind, an excellent (and free) mind mapping tool
- In Freemind, I began to expand the outline, filling in between 10 and 20 new events between the high-level ones from earlier
- I followed, very loosely, the key elements suggested by Blake Snyder in his excellent book "Save the Cat" - not strictly, though
- I wrote a total of 45 events, more or less (my target is 90k words, so I figure roughly 2k words per chapter as a goal)
- I then used Freemind to start to break all these events down into more and more detail. Two, three, sometimes four levels deep. My outline alone is now 3,300 words!
- Feeling pretty good about the plot, I turned to characters in October
- Again in Freemind, I created a simple biography for each character
- I also did something I thought I'd never do (it just seems cheesy) - I cast each character, picking some actor or actress and putting their picture right there next to them
- Finally, I did something I found very useful: I plotted out a "typical day" for each of the main characters, specifically the day before the story will begin. This really helped me visualize the world they live in, and generate a number of ideas for those "little details" that add much needed depth to a made-up place
So that's where I am, with three days to go. Feeling pretty good about this one!