I finished reading Flashforward a little while ago (giving it a 3.0 on my rating system) and that cleared the way of any residual reading. Early today, I got the story that has been giving me trouble for the last six months, “Graveyard Shift” under control. The plan for this weekend is to finish the novella.
“Graveyard Shift” is, as I have mentioned before, the first novella I’ve tried to write. It’s the longest thing I’ve written in the last 14 years. It’s also the most complexly plotted story I’ve attemped. And furthermore, the story is told from the point of view of 5 main characters, and there are countless “supporting” characters. At its heart, it’s a kind of mystery but it is also something that I hope makes the reader think and feel for the characters. All of this has made it a very diffcult story to write.
I don’t normally outline my stories. I take a page out of Asimov’s book: I think up a problem, and then a solution and then make up the rest as I go. I had the problem and solution for this one too, but “Graveyard Shift” is so complex, that in order to get it under control today, I had to take it by the reins and “outline” it. Well, not quite. There are 30 “parts” to the novella. I make an index card for each part, indicated the basic of what happen in the part, and from which character’s point of view the part is told. Then I was able to add notes to the cards for each section, indicating what elements were reveals. Finally, I ordered the cards appropriately so that the story holds the readers’ interest and there is a maximum amount of suspense.
I have about 17,000 words of the story written already. Some of that will get cut with the changes I outlined today, and then several additional parts need to still be written. But now that I have a solid outline from which to work, Tonight and tomorrow, I plan on spending much of my time finishing up this story, proofreading it, and getting it ready to send out next week. I don’t know exactly how long the story will be when it is finished, but I should guess somewhere between 20,000 – 25,000 words. (About 100-120 manuscript pages.)
When I finish it, I’ll report how close I was to my guess.