Progress Report: Project Trio

For the last couple of weeks, Trio has been my focus. As I said in my year-end update, I had around 30 pages of scribbles, 25% of an outline, and nothing solidly written on this.

By today, this has blown up to 50 pages of scribbles, 25% of an outline, and still nothing solidly written. Except it’s 25% of an entirely different outline, so there’s that.

When working on complicated writing projects, an outline can be your best friend. It lets you test ideas and throw them out as required, and I’ve been doing a whole lot of that. There are threads that either don’t work at all or need to go in an entirely different direction, and an outline lets you play them out without getting too attached because of the sheer work you’ve put into the writing.

Stylistically, Trio is supposed to be freewheeling, digressive, and quite chatty, but in practice, it has to be quite densely plotted, containing, as it does, around five different storylines that intersect and diverge at various points.

The first thing I did when I determined that I was going to be focussing on this book was to move as many of my scribbles as possible to Scapple, which is a rather wonderful app that lies somewhere between a mind-mapping tool and one of those conspiracy-tracing boards you keep seeing in tv shows with all the threads connecting different organisations and/or suspects (aka a real-life mind map, I suppose).

Scapple’s advantage is that it supports anything from a two-word scribble to a page-length character synopsis and allows you to treat these with as much or as little weight as you like. The best thing about it, though, is that it actually lets you make different kinds of connections between ideas, and you can play these out in your head to whatever point you feel like before rolling them back if they don’t work. (Once again, quite like an outline.)

Don’t get me wrong – large tracts of Trio will in fact be written entirely by the seat of my pants; the way the book is structured (about which probably more when I’m actually writing it) demands it. But considering how complex I’ve made this book for myself (and that’s something I almost always do), I need a good reference document in which I can see at a glance where I am and where I need to go.