Outlining: My Three Outlines

My first outline is the general outline, which has the basic, main events that happen in each chapter.

Chapter Eight:
• They come out the other side and go directly to the closest town, Efisae. There they meet Echo. They find out what he can do with his gift.
• They sleep at Echo's house. In the middle of the night, there is a commotion outside.
• Eoin, Saera, Faine and Echo go down into the street. Saera blinds them and Echo plants in their unconscious minds to go back home.

There is more to this, but I don't want to spoil too much.

Second, there is what I call the Temporary Outline. Here, I outline more specific events that I think might cover the next 1,000 words or so.

At the time of writing this, the Temporary Outline was simply:

• They meet Echo at his house.

And in fact, this took up 1,024 words. I'm consistently shocked at how many words seemingly small scenes can take up.

The final outline I use, I affectionately call the Micro-Outline. The Micro-Outline goes into the details of what exactly happens, including ideas for what movements I might want the characters to make, and any good dialogue that comes to mind. It's like I'm writing out the scene, but I don't have to worry about how best to make it pretty. It's like I'm doing all the thinking at this point, and when I write out the prose I just get to make it all pretty. It definitely takes a lot of the pressure off. It means I've always got something specific to refer to when I'm not sure what to write next.

This is what it looks like:

• Faine walks calmly. Eoin tries to pretend he is calm, but really his heart is racing. He feels strange. He’s never done anything like this before. Faine has said he’s done it often, so maybe that is why he doesn’t appear at all afraid.

• Eoin turns and sees Saera behind him. She is hunched over and her face is white. They climb creaking stairs. The door to Echo’s study is ajar (inside, Echo can be seen leaning over his desk and there is the scratch of furious scribbling) and Faine leads Eoin and Saera inside, calling Echo’s name.

• Echo starts at the voice and jerks upright. He turns in his seat and jumps up to shake Faine’s hand enthusiastically. “It’s been too long. And who’s this?”
Faine introduces Eoin and Saera. He shakes Eoin’s hand with a firm grip. He takes Saera’s hand and lifts it to give it a soft kiss.

• Echo offers Eoin and Saera seats across his desk. Describe the desk, the wall of bookshelves and the view outside the window as Eoin moves around the desk and sits. Faine sits in a couch in the corner.

It might take twice as long doing it this way, but it makes me feel so much more confident when it comes to writing out the prose.
While writing the following scene, I played for the second time with the idea of artificial tension -- when the MC feels tense even though there probably isn't anything to be tense about in reality.
Here is the prose, mostly as it came out under the conditions of Write or Die:
Faine stepped inside and presented the entrance hall. Eoin shrugged and entered. He heard Saera's timid footsteps behind him. Faine walked casually in front of him. Eoin tried to look casual like Faine, but inside his heart was racing. It felt strange just walking into the house of some person he'd never met. He never would have done this back home. Never. Yet Faine said he'd done it often, so maybe that was why he seemed so casual. Eoin was all too aware of his own body language, his clenched fists and upright posture.
Eoin turned to check Saera was still with them. She was hunched over and her face was white. She made the smallest and quietest of steps. At least he didn't look that bad. Eoin tried to loosen up a bit. He moved his arms so they weren't so tight by his waist and lowered his shoulders. Faine turned left up a staircase. Eoin followed, but when a stair creaked he froze exactly where he was. Faine was waiting at the top, obviously unfazed by the noise. In fact, Faine didn't seem afraid to make any noise.

Eoin breathed in and climbed the rest of staircase without stopping, even when it creaked its loudest. Saera was right behind him and they met Faine at the top, now standing in a wide hallway.

"Echo's study is just this way." Faine spoke as though they hadn't broken into the house. Eoin looked at Saera, who shook her head. He knew this meant she didn't want him to go, but he ignored her and walked on with Faine.

It was just now that Eoin realised what they were doing wasn't anything like breaking and entering. It was just the way Echo and Faine did things. That was why Faine showed no hesitation at all in breaking through the front door. Eoin felt suddenly much more comfortable and walked with a confidence closer to Faine’s.

The door to the study was open, and inside a figure was leaning over the desk and there was the scratch of furious scribbling.

As Faine led Eoin and Saera into the large room, he said, "Echo."

The figure started at the voice and jerked upright in his seat, still facing the window. "I know that voice." The figure turned in his seat and, seeing Faine, jumped up and shook his hand at least eight times, an enormous grin on his face. They clapped each other on the back. The man's eyes locked onto Eoin and Saera. "And who have you brought with you?"

"This is Saera and Eoin."

Echo stepped forward and shook Eoin's hand with a firm grip. He then turned to Saera, and while Eoin thought he would show her the same custom, he lifted her hand and gave it a soft kiss. Saera's cheeks turned a faint red.

"Please, take a seat." Echo gestured to two chairs on the other side of his desk.

Eoin and Saera both thanked him. A singular, long bookshelf took up the space of one wall, full of books with red, brown and black covers with gold writing. One corner of the room, by the window, was filled by a comfortable looking couch, which Faine promptly sat in. The window behind the desk was massive. Eoin saw the house across the road with its tree overhanging the roof, a small forest of these alien trees behind it, and then hills of beautiful, dark green grass extending into the distance.

Eoin and Saera sat in the chairs across from Echo.

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Revisiting "The Carrot": Update

I didn't reach 2,000 words today. I made an informed decision to stop at 1,024 words.

Regardless, that put my monthly word count up to a cozy 4,272.

I plan to write my 500 tomorrow to start off my month.

To productivity!

Help changing the name of a major character.

I've been told that the name of one of my characters (Echo) looks similar to the main character's name (Eoin), and that skimming readers could easily get confused. I completely agree.

I'm considering changing the name, and I'd like some opinions. The best I've come up with so far is:

Athrù: Irish for "change".

The siginificance: Something in "Echo's" past caused him to change his name -- take on a nickname (that being Athrù/Echo). The name signifies a change he tried to make in himself.

All thoughts and suggestions are warmly invited (please). I'd really like to find the best possible name for this character.

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Revisiting "The Carrot": 2,000 words

Related Post: The Carrot

Miraculously, my monthly word count has jumped to 3,250 since starting my 500 word rule. Not so miraculously, I missed one day, wrote 500 the next day, and haven't written for two days. If I desperately want to make all that up along with today's requirement (and I do), I need to write roughly 2,000 words.

So, returning to my motivatory roots, I took up the challenge and visited the milkbar. I bought myself a 1.25L bottle of Schweppes Brown Creaming Soda and a 5X10 block of Cadbury Crunchie Chocolate.

The rule: For every 300 words I write, I get 1 row of chocolate and 1 glass of Creaming Soda.

We'll see how I go. I'll be back to update.

I Can't Draw: Birds

I can't draw.

But I would like to be able to.

 And just like writing, you have to start somewhere. I'm pretty sure I started with something way too difficult for my first try at drawing from life. 

Who knows?

Maybe this will make me feel a bit better about my next, easier attempt.

I've noticed things often look better when you see them from a distance. So I made the following picture smaller for your viewing pleasure.

And then you see the drawing at its actual size, details and all.

Joy! You can see all the horrible bits!

Click on it if you want to laugh harder.

Then zoom in.

Your splene will proabably explode.


Maybe next time I should try sketching a cube.

What I'd really love, though, is to be able to draw landscapes.

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Super-Goal: 500 Words a Day


This one's a no-breaking-allowed rule. 500 words every single day for the next "forever until I've finished the first draft". That's massive. Can you imagine? A 90,000 word novel every six months!

I'd been mulling the idea over in my head for a while, but it wasn't until this morning (about 3:00) that I spontaneously wrote out these plans for possible ways to tackle it.

The first one was very simple.

Holidays Plan
- No internet until 500 words.
- 500 words -> First thing in the morning.

The second, for when school was in, was relatively complex.

Extreme School-Time Plan

Night  [ 9:30pm: Mini-outline for morning.
before [ 10:00pm: Sleep.
- 6:40am: Wake up -> Load up laptop -> Coffee
- 6:50am: Write or Die, 300 words -> 5min break
- 7:25am: Write or Die, 200 words
- 7:45am: Prepare for school
- 4:00pm:
Editing morning's work

- 9:30pm: Mini-outline for morning.
- 10:00pm: Sleep.

Fridays and Saturdays are free-rein.

[I made a note reminding myself that I was thereby sacrificing "late TV shows".]

The alternative came to me a sleepless hour later.

Not-So-Extreme School-Time Plan [Note to self: Very easy to adapt to.]

- Home from school: NO INTERNET until 500 words done.
- 4:00pm: 300 words Write or Die -> 10min break
- 4:40pm: 200 words Write or Die
- 5:00pm onwards:

Weekends: NO INTERNET until 500 words done. Writing first thing before leisure.

Note to self: No sacrifice, plenty of leisure and homework time.
Note to self: 15,000 words per month = 90,000 words every 6 months.

So you can probably guess that, at this point, I've chosen the second option.

As far as the holidays go, last night I wrote 600 words. Today I plan to write 1,000. We'll see how this goes. If I can make a daily routine out of this...

...then I believe I will deserve at least three pats on the back.

Grammar: The "Apostrophe S"

Possessive: When the subject owns something
Plural: Multiple of anything.
Possessive plural: When there are multiple things that own something
Contraction: When letters are cut out and two words are mashed together.

If the dog has a ball [ownership]:
It is the dog's ball.

It is really hot today:
It's really hot today.

If the dog is playing with another one:
There are two dogs.

Possessive plural:
If the two babies both have dummies:
They are the babies' dummies.

If a toy belongs to both of the babies:
It is the babies' toy.

I find the best way to work out whether to use it's or its is to check whether it is a contraction [mashed together] or possessive [ownership].

- You only ever use it's if it is a contraction. Remember that, and you're set for life. If you can remember this, you don't even have to remember the following rule.
- You only ever use its if it is possessive.

It's very hot today.
The dog chases its ball.

On Names Ending in "S"
It is grammatically acceptable to demonstrate possession with a name ending in "S" by either placing an ['s] on the end, or simply placing an apostrophe after the "S".

James's ship.
James' ship.

Short Rant On Names Ending in "S"
I passionately support the first option (full name, ['s]). Why? Because in the first option, the name is treated like all other names.
The reason I detest the second option is that the name is then treated like a possessive plural. And it's not. There is only one James.

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Three Bridges: Early Planning

Three Bridges will be quite the odd one out in the Válkia Chronicles. For starters, it doesn't have the title trend that the others in the series do (Taemus Aura, Kathes Aura).  Secondly, it is planned to be a multiple POV story, with four different main characters.

Main Characters

- The King.

- A boy whose parents died and now works as a thief in the Underground.

- A high-ranking man in the Underground. He started out like the boy; orphaned and a thief in the Underground. He now works as a spy for the Thief-King.

- A boy in a nomadic cult which worships different gods than those present in the story. At first those in the cult will assume that the boy's Aura that he recieves is from one of their own gods, but they eventually figure out that this is false and the boy is exiled from he group.


All four characters have individual plots that should be worked on separately and independently to make sure they each have elements that make a good story:
- Rise and fall in tension
- Strong conflicts
- Good climaxes

Once all elements are intact, the stories will be chopped up and mashed together in the best way possible. I have yet to decide whether the timeline should be continuous, or whether it should, for lack of a better phrase, recount the same two hours four times from different perspectives.

At times these characters' paths will cross, whether they know it or not.

The King and both boys will recieve Auras at some point in their journeys; the Thief-King will already have one.

By the end, all four main characters will have come together, in some sense, to fight against the invading enemy, both leading and alongside the Duthonian army.

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The Válkia Chronicles: Early Planning

The Válkia Chronicles

Current planned novels:
- Aundes Aura
- Three Bridges

Further possible novels:
- Maechre Aura
- Endures Aura
- Elcalades Aura
- Kathes Aura
- Taemus Aura
- Careus Aura

These stories would tell of characters who had to deal with Auras in their lives, and would be set before the events of Aundes Aura.

Known characters from Aundes Aura could be re-used in these, such as Faine in Endures Aura, the Thief-King in Elcalades Aura, and Echo in Taemus Aura.

Plans are that the characters across the novels would come from different cultures, lands and times across the Válkian history. For example, in Kathes Aura the main character might be from a druidesque clan in "pre-independence" history. In Careus Aura the main character could travel to Válkia from overseas. Perhaps that continent from which he came could be the base for another Chronicles series.

I don't know. All I know is that the idea excites me immensely, and whether it's possible or not, I've made a strong start.

Válkian History: On Measures of Time

I am starting to write up some appendices for at least my own purposes. These will all contribute to a greater project I have planned.This is my first entry.
All historic years in Válkia are measured from the year the continent separated into countries. Years after the separation are referred to as “p.i.” (i.e. 401p.i.), which stands for “post-independence”. Years before the separation are referred to as “pr.i.” (i.e. 234pr.i.), which stands for “pre-independence”.
Before the separation of the continent, the inhabitants of Válkia didn’t measure years from any one time, but each clan counted every change of season since its inception, as dictated by the Elder. Therefore, every year of the clan’s existence is multiplied by four to interpret their measure of time. Likewise, if the Elder insists that the clan has existed for 400s. (or 400 seasons), it has therefore existed for 100 years.
When saying dates:
401p.i.: “401 P I”
234pr.i.: “234 P R I”
400s.: “400 seasons”
In the case of Válkian clans, only in historical documents are the abbreviations used in regards to the number of seasons’ existence. When dictated, the full word “seasons” is always stated.

A Profound Sense of Melancholy

I have spent the last few days with A Profound Sense of Melancholy hanging over me. I have passed the years immersed in my schooling and in my own personal aspirations. Now I open my "early years" photo album and flick through, paying attention to none in particular. But for one photo.

Just one.

The one with the baby-blonde hair, one knee knelt in the grass. Behind is an expanse of short-cut grass, and then a backdrop of dense trees filling up the picture.

I've just looked up from playing in the grass, with the most innocent smile you've ever seen. One of pure happiness.

Nothing else in the world matters. I'm happy here just playing in the grass.

I have no words to describe the sense of happiness this photo gives me, but even more so the melancholy along with it.

Suddenly I'm seventeen. How the hell did this happen? Time is passing too quickly. How will I be ready for University in a year's time?

The past few days, as I've gone about my daily things, no matter what, the image of innocence comes to my mind, and I can't shake it. And when it does, I can't help but feel this Profound Sense of Melancholy. I feel like my freedom is gone from me. School, home, homework, school, home, homework, school, home, homework, again, again, again. I've been at this for twelve years now.

Is it too much to ask for someone to invent a time-machine? Why can't we travel back to when nothing mattered?

Why does seeing pure, innocent happiness make my eyes water? Yet I continue to gaze at the photo.

And I don't know why I can't shake this Profound Sense of Melancholy.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

Here at The Dark Corner, Real Life is both our best friend and our worst enemy. Look to him for inspiration, but don't let him get in the way too much.

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