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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-12-26 16:40
Subject: [writing] Another wrestling match with SUNSPIN
Security: Public
Tags:books, calamity, process, sunspin, writing
Another day with hours spent in the trenches of the Sunspin outline. If writing a short story is like spitting watermelon seeds, and writing a standalone novel is like biting off chunks of watermelon and spitting them out one at a time, I have to say working on this monster is like trying to barf out an entire watermelon at once, whole.

I've tried several approaches to actually hanging a plot on the fabric of the outline, which is largely dozens of pages of worldbuilding and continuity notes. This morning I finally hit what I wanted. I then promptly hied off to see Black Swan at the cinema, about which more anon. On returning, I broke out the whiteboard again to work through the implications of tracking characters across settings. I'm not having too much trouble managing everyone's agendas so far, but figuring out who is where when was getting dicey.

That produced a whiteboard that looked something like the flight of the bumblebee as rendered by a drunken John Venn.

IMG_7450

© 2010 Joseph E. Lake, Jr. All rights reserved.

Drawing on my most recent whiteboarding experience, I promptly set about cleaning up the mess in an electronic file using the Drawing function of Google Docs. This created its own information management problems. the_child was moved to critique my visualizations, offering several cogent and useful suggestions which I incorporated. She also continues to ask excellent questions about deep background and character motivation. It's sort of weird, brainstorming high concept space opera with a thirteen-year-old, but she's pretty good at this.

My favorite bit was when I realized I'd had two characters appear in the narrative's midstream without knowing where they'd come from, in an astrographic sense. The following exchange ensued:

jaylake: "Where do they come from? Some other planet. I can't call it 'Some Other Planet."
the_child: "Just use a different language."

No wonder I keep this kid around.

Anyway, I seem to have the first third of the trilogy (Calamity of So Long a Life) diagrammed. This diagram itself broken down into something like a three-act structure. I now need to go back to my plot narrative, which only covers the first act of this visualization, and follow the structure I've laid out to the breakpoint between books one and two.

I will also observe once again that Fred is a heck of a lot smarter than I am...

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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-12-27 01:46 (UTC)
Subject: Mindmaps
Are you familiar with mind mapping software? Because these pictures are basically mind maps.

You might look into something like XMind (which is free, and quite good: http://www.xmind.net/), because you'd be able to produce diagrams JUST like the pictures you've posted, but in an already convenient digital form (thus saving you from having to manually translate them later).
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Renfield
User: cuddlycthulhu
Date: 2010-12-27 04:40 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mindmaps
Heh, I didn't see your comment. Have you ever used FreeMind? I'm wondering how they compare.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-27 13:57 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mindmaps
And I played with XMind some yesterday. It works well for one of the kinds of diagrams I am dealing with, but I'm having a heck of a time making it work with the other.
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Renfield
User: cuddlycthulhu
Date: 2010-12-27 18:16 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mindmaps
What's the other diagram and what are you trying to do? I haven't used XMind at all but I may be able how to tell you how to do it with FreeMind.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-27 18:46 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mindmaps
Thanks! Message me on LJ or at my email with a good email address for you, and I'll send you a .jpg of what I'm trying to do. Problem is it addresses lines of parallel action without a central point, and so far all I can do in either XMind or FreeMind seems to rely on there being a central concept from which everything else radiates.
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Renfield
User: cuddlycthulhu
Date: 2010-12-27 18:58 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Mindmaps
Sent you an email to your at jlake address.
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User: mmegaera
Date: 2010-12-27 03:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Vorkosigan
Ah, so that's another method of finding a person who can help you brainstorm. Grow your own. I applaud you, sir.
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2010-12-27 03:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My favorite part of this diagram is the "Go DAD!" part. :-)
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Renfield
User: cuddlycthulhu
Date: 2010-12-27 04:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Have you ever used FreeMind or other mind-mapping software? It might be able to more easily put your whiteboard markings in digital format than drawing it out in GoogleDocs. This is one example of mine:

mindmap
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-12-27 13:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you!
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