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The Story Arc and the Ever-Evolving Notecard Tree

Story Arc by Author Bruce A. Shields

I began writing Losing Dani Strumm nearly two years ago. I had a dream about the basic story, and when I woke, I wanted to go back to sleep because I was enjoying it so much. So I thought to myself, I need to write this.

After getting myself a cup of coffee, I went to my office and began writing anything I could remember. This is step one, after all. Write anything and everything down, even if it doesn't make complete sense at the time.

After writing everything I could remember of the dream, it was time for more coffee and a break from writing.

Another detail would pop-up here and there throughout the morning, and I would add it to my sheet of paper. By the end of the day, there was nothing more to recall, and I was happy with my record keeping.

I had taken a break from my previous novel, Pandemic Dawn Book III: Day of Abomination, and I was ready to write once more. Thinking about the new story I had dreamed of, I thought I would write it next.

After putting together a simple storyline, the name Losing Dani Strumm came to me. For whatever reason, I felt this was the title and kept it.

I took the basic outline for the story arc and began writing the scenes on colored postcards. The one thing that stood out immediately to me was that this would be the first time I wrote a character by themselves. Before Losing Dani Strumm, my books relied heavily on various characters, dialog, and relationships with one another. I wouldn't have that here.

How would I tell the story?

I thought about a narrator, but honestly, I always hated books that were written that way. I still find them dull. It makes one feel they are not taking part in the story as it happens, instead told by someone else after the fact.

So that was out.

I thought about just having the main character, Dani, dialog out loud. Maybe write entirely from her point of view, but again, you lose so much of your storytelling ability doing so.

Then it came to me, memories and dreams. This would be perfect for bringing elements from the outside, along with characters, dialog, and all the things I like to write.

So I began to work, first on the main story arc. Then I added the dreamscape arc and the memory arc. These three arcs would allow me to paint the picture I wanted without removing Dani from the loneliness and isolation of being stranded on a planet's surface.

I took the main story arc, laid it out, then used the dream arc above and the memory arc below it, and used cards to "fill in" the story.

Some parts were better told in dream form and others as memories. All worked together to form the story from start to finish.

I then started to break the total down into manageable chapters.

I think of chapters as small stories working toward the main. As I write, things begin to change in the storyline, and cards need to be moved around or deleted from the book.

I never know how long the chapters will be or the book's length when I start writing. I try not to set goals that way. Some great stories tell themselves with 46,000+ words, like Fahrenheit 451, and some need 100,000+ like To Kill a Mockingbird.

Both are excellent books. One is more than twice as long as the other. So my goal is not actually the length but the context.

I set chapter goals on my note cards that explain what the reader will learn from that chapter. If I can do this with one chapter, I do. If it takes another or two more, then that's what I write.

As I progress through the story, writing chapter after chapter, the notecards move around. Some are consolidated, some removed, all to the benefit of the story.

Losing Dani Strumm storyline by Author B. A. Shields

Currently, my storyline has a couple of cards removed, and two were tacked together because they were too short to be a chapter by themselves.

I have approximately 46,000 words written so far, and I am probably 70-80% done with the story. The final part is the toughest for me. I have to repeatedly make sure there is continuity, and I didn't forget an element.

I probably spend more time on the last 1/3 of my book than anything else, including editing, which there is a lot.

I am currently waiting to hear back from the model I hired for the cover. She is an excellent match for Dani, about the same age and presently serving in the military.

Once I get the preliminary cover finished, I will be sure to share it with everyone.

Until then, happy writing!

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