Sol.Terra was most definitely an experiment, of a lot of things: I wanted to know if I could write a space opera for one. I love sci-fi, but I seldom attempt to write it. I also wanted to see if I could break up a story into a series of “episodes” and structure it more like a TV series than an actual novel, and how successful this would be. Lastly, I wanted to know if I could write a fixed amount, to a strict schedule, and most importantly — could I stick to it?
I set myself a challenge, to write a story of about 6000-8000 words per week, for 12 weeks. So for about 3 months weeks my schedule looked like this:
Tuesday – Friday: Write
Saturday: Proof read and post.
What was the biggest thing I learnt? Make time to plan. This is perhaps the single most useful thing I can share.
When I started Sol.Terra, I began with no more than a rough outline of a basic story arc. Each week, as I sat down to plan the next episode, I tried to write as much of a synopsis as possible. I worked out the number of scenes, where they would take place, in whose point of view, and what characters would be involved at each step. Having this plan meant that when it came time to write, all I had to do was look at the next line in my synopsis, and turn it into a few sentences. By Friday afternoon, the synopsis was all gone, and in its place: a completed story, written in four days.
The next thing I learnt was the power of routine. People often talk about this, but I think it’s something we happily take for granted. Telling myself I had to write every day, at a certain time, really increased my productivity. As the weeks progressed, and my routine became habit, the ideas came easier, and the words flowed more smoothly. When 12pm hit, it was time to write. My body knew it, my mind knew it. No arguments, just get to it.
Another thing I’ve found is that writing a collection of episodes, rather than a traditional novel, is in some ways a lot easier. Each episode has to be kept under a certain length, but still has to have it’s own conflict, rising tension, and resolution. Doing it in this format means there is no room for what I can only refer to as “slog” (you novelists know what I mean). Everything must happen quickly, and every word must be made to count. No sooner do you begin, than you are right into the middle of the conflict, and a moment later, wrapping it up. If you think you are the kind of writer who gets stuck in the slog and struggles to make it to the actual story, I would highly recommend giving this exercise a go. It will completely change the way you think about plotting and exposition.
Sol.Terra was an experiment, but one that was highly successful, even more enjoyable, and changed the way I think about writing. From conception to completion, it was assembled in the twelve shortest weeks of my life. Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, I already have. Watch this space for book 2.