Outlining Voice of the Witness

It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything under the Voice of the Witness Commentary category here. I stopped doing it weekly when it was apparent no one was reading. I never intended to completely do away with it.

I’d like to begin by saying I am well aware the story started to get away from me early on. More recently, I’ve been taking control back. If you started at the beginning but lost interest, I urge you to give it another chance.

While I began writing Voice of the Witness with a rough idea of where I was going, it was not outlined as it should have been. Then I moved on to a system of having a rough outline of what would happen of the next few (poorly defined number) of episodes. That also didn’t give me precisely the result I wanted. Today, I’m going to talk about my current process for outlining the serial. It’s one I’m finally happy with and I think the results are solid.

There are some core things I wanted from this outlining process. They are as follows:

I wanted short episodes that are roughly consistent in length.
Currently, my target for an average episode is 250 words. This is bite-sized, which is both something Calamities Press wants and makes it easier to write on a weekly basis. It also means that you, the reader, can follow along week to week, or you can drop in once a month and catch up pretty easily. Of course, some more significant or action-filled episodes may need to be longer.

I wanted something to matter in every episode.
That doesn’t mean there will be something big in every episode. There won’t be. However, each episode needs to physically progress things (that is, move the characters further down the road), develop a character in some meaningful way, contain some revelation, or some combination of those three.

I wanted to make it easier to write.
Mission accomplished here. Following a pre-written guide one episode at a time makes the writing much faster and more coherent.

Now here is how I’m doing this:

I’m writing episode outlines in blocks of five.
Each block contains a micro arc, which in some way progresses the overall story. (If you’ve been following along, in this block that has been revealing some of Samuel’s history and why the people of Jeth seem to treat him strangely. Also, moving the three companions from Jeth to the field in the northeast where those blue flowers are known to grow.) Each episode in that block must progress that micro arc, whatever it may be. Some blocks containing more significant events may need to be longer, but I haven’t had that happen yet. I am eyeing a certain event not far down the road which may be the first of these, however.

I am writing a bullet point list for every episode.
In a way, it’s like I’m writing part of the episode in advance. I write bullet points telling what characters do, what the say, how they react to the others, and that sort of thing. When I go to write the actual episode, it’s like I’m just adding details and descriptions.

Right now, I just have a loose outline of where everything is going as a whole. I intend to start writing out a broader outline soon, maybe even tonight. I think I will finally write out a rough idea of the entire story (yes, I know how I mean for it to end and I have from the start). Then I will take that and break it down into chapters of a sort, each containing a certain number of the above mentioned blocks.

This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate feedback. I most certainly would. Hell, if I get going a way people don’t enjoy, I’d be willing to rewrite what I have. After all, a serial is written for an audience possibly more than any other form of story. So, as always, let me know what you think!

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