East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Think fast: outlining a novella in two hours

So what happened was this: after posting about my idea of writing a story based on a character like Captain Katanga in the Indiana Jones movies, I was discussing details and possibilities with my friends online.
Stuff like who’d be part of the crew, would they operate only in the Mediterranean or extend their activities to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, would they kick Nazi ass exclusively or would they also punch some other occasional colonial bad guys… stuff like that.

And one of my publishers dropped me a line…

“You know where to send this one once it’s finished, right?”

And so, considering the pitch had already happened and worked without me doing nothing, I went and sent him a proper proposal and an outline for a 30.000-words novella.
Straight away.
No barrier between thought and action.
That sounds damn smooth, but first I had to put together a 1000-words/4 pages outline, and do it fast.

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The new book has been outlined: now comes the fun part

This morning I put together the first proper outline of a book that will supposedly see the light in early 2020: a non fiction book for a small but classy Italian publisher dealing with one of the topics of this blog: travelers and explorers in exotic parts, between 1800 and 1940-something.

The trick will be weaving together the lives of at least twenty historical characters, so that the volume will be a homogeneous narrative and not a series of episodes.

So I spent quite some time trying to decide whether to use time or space to tie the story together.

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In the dire need for cash to pay for my vices – i.e., electric light and eating once a day – I set up an online workshop about outlining stories.
I did not believe very much it would work, but it did – I have two students, and they seem to like the way we are tackling this thing.

Screenshot from 2018-06-06 18-10-02Like all of my online workshop these days it is handled through email – I send along an exercise per day, together with the opportune documentation.

And to set up this small course, I had to put some order in my writing technique, for what it’s worth: I had to explain in plain language what usually I do when I write.
And boy does it sound interesting.
And it also seems to work!

So I am thinking of integrating the notes with some extra material (including my trademark piece about outlining Cinderella), maybe some ideas about mind maps and other tricks, and do a small handbook.
Or something.

And the “something” seems to be the way to go, because really, handbooks about outlining out there are legion.
So I’m thinking about doing a series of podcasts.
Or, as I said, something.
My vices are hard to kick.

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New surprise project, and Scrivener

OK, so yesterday I got an idea for a new non-fiction book in Italian – a fun thing that might have a market and is based on the classic 36 Stratagems by Sun Tzu.
A nice intersection of some stuff I’ve been doing recently and my long-standing interest for Chinese culture.

Scrivener (software)Currently I have a lot of stuff on my plate, but this is the sort of sweet and easy thing I can do in my spare time, and it’s probably going to find a lot of readers and sell nicely.
In the spirit of doing the maximum work with the minimum expenditure of energy1, I set out to outline and plan the book as a sort of ultrafast, guerrilla project.
Scrivener, the software i normally use for big projects, was pretty useful.

Here’s how I planned the thing, in case you are interested2Continue reading

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Plans and re-designs

Plans are made to be changed – and so my finely defined writing and publishing plan for 2015 is undergoing some radical redesign.

On the other hand, somewhat unexpectedly, I’m outlining a new novel – the pitch, based on an original request I was sent, is currently being evaluated by my publisher, and while I wait for a (hopefully) positive response, I’m thinking ahead and mapping my story.


My current modus operandi for fiction is more or less like this…

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