How It’s Made: Earth 2

Hello everyone! I hope you’re doing well. This post is just something I thought up as a way to celebrate this project reaching 100 wordpress followers. Now this might seem confusing, as the number on the sidebar is not very close to 100, but that number includes all followers including twitter, which pretty significantly affects the count. I haven’t really concerned myself too much with marketing this blog since the early days, so seeing this number is fairly encouraging to me as a writer.

I’ve always had fairly humble goals for this blog, and you all consistently blow past them. When I started this project way back in 2018, my initial goal was to get 5 people to read all of my posts. Throughout season one I easily achieved that from all the work I was doing marketing this, but after I took a year long hiatus to focus on school, when I resumed posting, I was discouraged by the fact that I’d lost a lot of my consistent viewers. I’ve slowly worked to provide quality writing to you all and I would consider myself to have achieved success by merit of my writing now rather than my marketing.

Now, with all the preamble out of the way, let’s begin the actual post. Here is, more or less, my current writing process for superzeroes.

Before I ever upload a post, I always have the entire season finished. That is what I utilize the time in my hiatuses for (in theory). If you want generally tips for web serials, I’ve already written a decent post about that: Web Serial Tips: Don’t Go the Wrong Way!

Step one: Ideas

I begin every season by working out vaguely what I want to cover. This comes down to a lot of vague ideas that I jotted down and set up in earlier seasons, combined with some good conversations with my friend J, who has been so much help to me throughout my writing career, and looking forwards to the ending that I have in mind. I generally consider this initial phase to be done once I’ve looked through my notes on the previous seasons, and come up with about 5 or 6 sentences describing what will happen. 1 sentence for the setup and what happened in the time gap between seasons, 1 sentence for each ‘arc’ which is something I’ll touch more on in step two, and 1 or 2 sentences for the conclusion.

This is loosely inspired by something called the snowflake method, in which you build a story by building down from a central idea.

Step two: Spreadsheet outline

This step has had many iterations throughout my writing career. During season one, I more or less didn’t outline more than a couple posts in advance. During season two, I utilized a program called scrivener to accomplish this, but I discontinued, due to my mac dying and the fact that I both hate and don’t want to pay for the windows version of scrivener. For season three and onwards (up to now at least), I have simply used a spreadsheet.

I start by setting up a table with headers like such:

I use the y axis to describe the characters in the arc, and I use the x axis to describe which act they’re in, usually out of 4, but not always. I took inspiration for this story style from JRR Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. If you haven’t read it, he has a large cast, all of which end up on their own respective journeys in small groups, which all work together to build the overall plot. If you’ve read Trials, and Afflictions (when it’s finished), hopefully you’ll be able to see what I’m talking about here.

Once I have the table set up, I fill in act 1 in detail for all arcs, and then fill out the rest as best as I can. It’s always wound up changing on me, so I don’t worry too much about the specifics of future acts until I’ve written the one before it.

Step three: Spreadsheet outline for individual parts

This step has always existed to some extent in my writing, but I’ve really refined it in the last couple of seasons. First, I set up another page in the same spreadsheet with 3 columns, like so:

The first column corresponds to the arcs set out in the last step. The second column indicates which act and which part within the act, so the first one is act 1: part 1. Now, take note that this is NOT the part number that I use when I upload. It simply sets out the chronological order within the act. The last column is the simplest one, as it is just an outline of what I need to happen. This isn’t fully set in stone, but by the time I’ve outlined it like this, it usually at least mostly occurs.

During this step, I only fill out act one, unless I have particularly strong ideas, then I may jot them down for the next arc. I try to finish all of the first acts before I move on to fully outlining the second acts. This is because I don’t know fully how it will resolve most of the time, and like to not work too far ahead.

Note that I’ll sometimes made a cell for the ending, with a brief description of where I’m building up to, but I don’t think I’ve ever had it spot on in the outline. It’s always undergone at least a little change.

Step four: Actual writing

This is the step I can provide the least help for you on. I set out to make what I need to happen in this part happen in 1000 words or so. I will sometimes expand a part into two parts, and I’ll sometimes collapse two parts together. It all depends on how it pans out. Sometimes I’ll set out to actually make something happen and realize that the premise was always completely ridiculous, and there was no reasonable way I could accomplish it. At that point, I practice the following 3 steps:

  1. Improvise
  2. Adapt
  3. Overcome

That is to say that I just figure it out. I may need to alter the ending, but I always manage to figure it out.

Since this tidbit didn’t really fit anywhere else, I’m gonna put it here. I don’t count writing progress in word counts. That is to say that I don’t keep track of how many words I wrote in a session, or in a month, as many people do. As a serial writer, I keep track of how many parts I’ve written. The parts are always around 1000 words, so if I need to know the number of words, I just use that and multiply it out. I used to keep parts at around 600 words, but I found that often led to lackluster parts where I skipped important details. This is something of a writer growth thing. 1000 isn’t some magical number, it just usually works for me. I have a pretty good eye for how much I can make happen in 1000 words with appropriate detailing.

Step five: Color coding

This is a fairly important step for me. I always color code my outlines once I get further into them.

The specific color scheme is unimportant, but using something like this conveys a decent bit of information about what needs to be done very quickly. Looking at this, I know I’ve written act 1, outlined act 2, and haven’t properly outlined acts 3 or 4.

I utilize the same color scheme on the parts page, where I can see exactly where I’ve gotten and what parts need to be done. Another added bonus of this, is that it provides a nice motivational boost to highlight large swaths of my spreadsheet in orange, especially so when I finish the last part in an arc and can connect the two swaths, but that might just be me.

Step six: Rinse and repeat

Once I’ve written an act, I outline out the next, then write it. I continue to color code the whole way through, until eventually I’ve written everything I need to in all the arcs. I always write all of the first acts, then all of the second acts, so on and so forth. I won’t work ahead in Jude’s arc and leave Paul’s behind, since I’m building to the same point and time.

Step seven: The ending

Once I’m ready, I will begin outlining the end. For this section I usually treat it like 1 act, writing a brief description, and then outlining the individual parts. For Trials, the ending was 2 parts, but for Afflictions it is around 6.

Step eight: Ordering

Once I have the thing written, I will order the parts in actual upload order. I do this by the following steps. First, I make a new column, and manually determine which order the parts will go in. During Trials, I alternated arcs each part, but during Afflictions, I’m doing all of the first acts, then all of the seconds, with a few exceptions.

The only big hassle for this is that I have to manually copy each part into one big document to print for the editing phase. That proved to not be too much of a hassle, but was considerably easier in scrivener.

Step nine: Editing

This step, I actually have something interesting to say again. First, I will send the whole thing to J, to see if I’ve written coherent arcs, or if I’ve written something particularly stupid. At the end of Trials, for example, I initially wrote something that more or less said something quite dumb that I disagree with, and I didn’t catch it, because that wasn’t my intention. Once I get notes from J, I’ll move on to personally editing.

When I edit, I drive to my university and print out the entire thing, whole punch it, and put it in a binder. Once I’ve used all my printing money for the semester, I go on home and do a readthrough where I only mark things like typos, but I don’t look very hard. I am simply trying to reorient myself in my story and read it like a reader. This is where I find plot changes that I need to make, and I usually try to reference J’s notes.

Once I’ve worked out any kinks in the plot, I’ll move onto my version of editing, in which I go into the physical binder with a pen and highlighter (I have a specific pen comme highlighter), and I mark any changes that need to be made, be it an inconsistency, a typo, or a complete rework of a part.

Once I’ve made all my notes, I go in and make all the changes on my computer, which somewhat allows me a third readthrough when I’m fairly sick of looking at it. Once that’s done, I declare the project finished. I input links and photo credits as I upload parts. Photo credits got easier when I decided to just design a generic image for the whole season.

Thank you all so much for reading. I hope this is something of a “reward”, but let me know if you liked it or hated it. It was considerably more effort that a normal part, and twice as long with graphics, so don’t expect this too often. I’m declaring the next milestone to be 1000, for which I will do something bigger (which I don’t have to determine right now at least, since I don’t earnestly believe I’ll ever hit that). Keep an eye out for another special project I’m going to be releasing soon, since I’ve decided I will at least link it on here, and have a great day!

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