July’s Writing Goals: Story Spine ReportĀ 

Back at the start of the month, I wrote out some simple writing goals for July,  based on my diagnosis of where I am.

I’m not ready to write my next novel. Several failed attempts have proven that. I  need to work on the core elements of the story,  the story spine, as Kenn Adams, its creator, calls it.

The story spine gives the nature of the story,  the main conflict,  and the viewpoint character’s motivations,  all in one tight package. 

  • Once upon a time…
  • Every day…
  • But, one day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that… n
  • Until, finally…
  • And, ever since then.

So my goal for July was to keep up the blog five days a week without fail and to write four story spines. 

Four doesn’t sound like a lot,  but that is a mini-outline for four novels (or stories at least), when my biggest weakness had been creating core conflicts and characters strong enough to carry a novel or novella. 

Fortunately, I  succeeded,  and three of the four are actually stories I might be interested in developing further,  maybe even writing “all the way.”

The first was just practice, basically fanfic for a toy/cartoon/comic I liked as a kid (it was the 80’s. All the cartoons were also toy lines and comic books). Rights issues aside, all that stuff relied heavily on the myth of redemptive violence,  so I won’t even consider repurposing this story for an original setting. Sometimes practice is just practice.

But the other three fit my model of what I want to write: optimistic adventure fantasy with diverse casts, female leads,  and nonviolent heroes. 

The best pop culture equivalent is the new Doctor Who series. It is clearly an adventure series, with lots of action as the leads run from things or people who are trying to kill them. But most of the time, the Doctor and his companions find a way to solve the problem with killing or maiming anyone. At least they try. 

So anyway, I am excited about that. Victory #1 achieved.

My goals for August are a little more ambitious: continue the blog, write two more story spines of a usable quality, expand at least one story spine into a more detalied outline or zero draft, and write up at least three reports on impressive things authors have done in books I have recently read (these can be blog posts).

I’ll let you know how it went in a month. 

Freestyle Friday: Writing Goals for July 2016

Since it’s “Freestyle Friday,” I’m going to take a break from the heavier topics I discussed in my last two posts.

I want 2016 to be the year I got my act together.

  • I earned my Ph.D.
  • I’ve started getting my health back under control by eating a fully plant-based diet and exercising more (in the summer, that means swimming. I’ve got a plan for the fall, too).
  • I’ve started trying to unify my personal ethics with my actions, digging deeper, actually changing from the normal.
  • I’ve restarted this blog after a 3-year absence.
  • I’m going to make another go of my fiction writing.

Let me talk about the last two here. It’s not that I haven’t been writing fiction for the last couple of years, it’s that I haven’t been successfully writing fiction.

After writing a novel that I loved, one that did everything I wanted it to, one that I actually go back and read sometimes like somebody else wrote it … I found I couldn’t even come close to replicating it.

Lightning wouldn’t strike twice, and I spent two full years not knowing why or how.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t have the skill to reproduce it yet. For those of you who play RPGs, I got a critical success mostly from the luck of the dice.

But now, I have a plan. For July, I want to:

    • Continue writing this blog five days a week, putting out material that is actually useful, that gives something of value to at least somebody every day.
    • Write 4 “

Story Spines

      .” In case you’re not familiar with them, they’re proto-outlines invented by Kenn Adams in 1991 and used extensively throughout the entertainment industry,

especially by Pixar


For each story, I’ll then create the main character. That character will need to be relatable, with relatable motivations that will be powerful and engaging enough to push through the entire story.

A bit more about story spines: They’re designed to get to the heart of the story long before you write an extensive outline or start putting dialogue and description down.

Like a living creature, a story only has one spine. So four spines means (the start of) four stories. The story spines will actually be the easy part.

Creating a relatable main character with powerful enough motivations to drive the whole story, well, that’s the hard part.

And that’s why I’m going to do at least 4 story spines a month (maybe more) until I get it right, and then keep doing them (and analyzing them) until I figure out what causes me to fail and what causes me to succeed.

I’ll continue to read books and articles about writing, and work on technical aspects of my prose. But the bottom line is, if I can’t write a powerful enough central motivation and relatable enough lead character to drive the story to completion, nothing else matters.

So that’s the plan for July. I guess this means I’ll owe you a status report at the end of the month.