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Writing Process Tutorial, Part 2

April 27, 2010

In a previous Tuesday entry, I described my process for how I work up ideas from the rough notes to the outline and finally to the story.  Since I’m moving this week and don’t really have time to devote to blog entries, I’m going to give you a more in-depth tutorial of this process with my current WIP:  Tales of the Scarlet Knight, Vol 5:  They Stood Up for Love.  So to begin, today you’ll see how Chapter 2 developed from rough notes to outline to the actual first draft.  This should give you a great idea of how everything flows together.

And since this is Volume 5 of the series, you can catch up on Volumes 1-4 here.


Phase 1:  Rough Notes

Meanwhile, Tim Cooper has been working the last couple of months for TriTech, a company run by Harry Ward, using a pseudonym.  Coop is working on some mechanical engineering stuff that he can’t tell anyone about, not even Sylvia, who’s becoming worried about all the time Coop spends away from her at TriTech.


Phase 2:  Outline

Chapter 2:

  • Sylvia is at work at her new salon and goes to meet Coop for lunch but he doesn’t show up or answer his phone.
  • Sylvia goes to TriTech HQ, where Coop comes down and says that he forgot because he’s working on something important he can’t tell her about.
  • Later, Sylvia goes home and talks with Aggie about the situation.  She thinks maybe Coop doesn’t love her anymore and has found someone else.  They urge patience.


Phase 3:  First Draft

Chapter 2

From her research, Sylvia knew Rampart City had over three hundred salons that ranged from the basic fast-food type chains to elaborate spas.  Hers was the only one in the city that featured a gun range behind it, though.  And so far Artemis Salon was a success.

That would have shocked the bureaucrat at city hall who approved her business permit.  “A gun range in a salon?” the man had asked.

“No reason women can’t look good when they’re shooting,” Sylvia had said.  She knew the concept sounded ludicrous, but she didn’t care.  Styling hair and shooting were the two great loves in her life and she saw no reason she couldn’t combine them.  Besides, she had plenty of money after four hundred years of arms dealing; it wouldn’t be much of a financial hit if the salon failed.

But it didn’t fail.  The unique concept had tapped into Rampart women’s two greatest fears:  crime and looking unattractive.  So at the Artemis Salon they could get an attractive new hairdo and self-defense lessons.  That way when they went out to the city’s nightclubs they wouldn’t have to fear the muggers and perverts.

Though she had started out by herself, the business had grown rapidly to accommodate demand so that now she had five stylists and three self-defense instructors.  She offered classes on gun safety and instruction on every caliber of weapon from a 9mm pistol to the latest in assault rifles in addition to coloring, manicures, and pedicures.  Plans were already in the works to expand into paintball and tanning, both of which were popular with the office crowd, who wanted to eliminate stress and the pastiness brought on by the city’s gloomy winter.

Despite her success, she still left time for romance.  In particular she met her boyfriend for lunch every day.  Or at least she had, until he started working for this TriTech company.  Since then their lunches had become every other day, then once a week, and now he was late for this week’s lunch.  Sylvia checked her watch again while she finished sweeping up hair around her styling chair.

It wasn’t like Tim to be late for anything, especially a date with her.  Besides Emma Earl, he was the most organized and punctual person Sylvia had ever known.  It seemed impossible that he would stand her up, as the young women who worked for her would say.  She turned to one of these women now and said, “I’m taking lunch now, Val.  I’ll be back at two.”

“Sure thing, Syl,” Val said.  Sylvia flinched a little at this nickname, but let it pass.  That was how the young people talked and she was a young person now—or at least so anyone thought.  In reality her five hundred eighth birthday would be next week, which she had hoped to spend with Tim, who would think it was her twenty-eighth birthday.

Getting behind the wheel of her Ram pickup, she felt a familiar twinge of guilt about lying to Tim about her true origins.  She reminded herself that telling a mortal she was a witch was against the coven’s rules.  Her sister Agnes had been married to Alejandro Chiostro for fifty years and he had gone to his grave not knowing his beloved wife was a witch.  He had also gone to his grave not knowing an even darker secret, one not even Aggie knew about.

Sylvia tried not to think about this; it had been over two hundred years ago, it was water under the bridge now.  She focused her thoughts on Tim and what might have happened to him.  Reaching over to the passenger’s seat, she found her cell phone and keyed in his number at TriTech.  He didn’t answer the phone.  She tried his cell phone, but still didn’t get an answer.

The possibilities ran through her mind.  Was he hurt?  In Rampart City, despite Emma Earl’s best efforts, crime was still a commonplace occurrence.  Or perhaps, even worse, he had found another woman.  It surprised her when she felt a warm stab of anger run through her body; she hadn’t felt that since Alejandro died.  She supposed these young feelings were a byproduct of her transformation, but so far on the whole it had been worth it—at least until now.

She pushed down on the accelerator.


TriTech had moved to Rampart City nine months ago under a city initiative to attract more high-tech businesses to replace the faltering manufacturing and shipping industries.  The company’s arrival came at the perfect time for Tim Cooper, who had just learned that NASA had rejected his robot design.  His qualifications were such that he had other offers, most of them in other cities or in a more academic capacity.

With TriTech he got the opportunity to work on leading-edge technology in a hands-on fashion.  While he had always enjoyed his classes, he had preferred working in the lab, tinkering with machinery.  During the interview, his future boss had promised him as much lab time as he wanted.  “A creative mind like yours needs to be employed where it can do the most good,” Mr. Ward had said.

At the moment, Tim was alone in his lab, putting the finishing touches on his latest design, the Remote Automated Traveler (RAT for short), Mark II.  Unlike the skeletal appearance of his early prototypes, this RAT had a fully sealed exoskeleton that would allow it to explore the moon, Mars, or other distant planets.  Or at least that was still his goal.

The NASA rejection had devastated him, but it wasn’t the end.  Mr. Ward promised that once the RAT was fully operational and run through all safety tests, he would work some of his contacts at the space agency to get it a real tryout.  Then his device could finally do what he had dreamed of since he was a child.

That was only the tip of the iceberg.  He had already drawn up the plans for something even greater.  He would present the specs to Mr. Ward on Monday.  With enough funding and manpower, he was certain he could devise the next generation of power for spacecraft, and perhaps it could even be used to alleviate some of the energy problems on Earth.

Someone tapped on the glass door to the lab.  Tim turned around to see Ms. Fielding, Mr. Ward’s assistant.  She motioned for him to come over to her; from the way she glared through the glass he doubted it was good news.  Though Tim wasn’t interested in gossip, even he knew Ms. Fielding had a reputation for being nasty.

“Is something wrong?” he asked after changing out of his clean suit.

“You have a visitor in the lobby,” Ms. Fielding said, her voice icy.


“A Miss Joubert.”

“Sylvia?  But—” he stopped as he checked his watch.  “Oh no.  I was supposed to meet her for lunch today.”

He left Ms. Fielding behind as he ran upstairs to the lobby.  The look on Sylvia’s face was even icier than Ms. Fielding’s.  He knew better than to try hugging or kissing her, knowing it was more likely she would deck him.  “I’m so sorry,” he said, though he also knew this would do little to assuage her anger.  “I lost track of time.”

“Let’s go.  I’ve got to be back to the salon by two,” she said.  She waited until they were in her truck and on the road before she said, “They sure keep you busy there.”

“I suppose so.  It’s really exciting.  The first RAT prototypes are going into production and there’s something big I’m going to pitch to Mr. Ward next week—”

“Maybe with all the things you’re doing, you don’t need a girlfriend to add to it.”

He looked over at her, his mouth hanging open with shock for a moment.  “Sylvia, I’m sorry.  I was working in the lab and there isn’t a clock—”

“I tried calling you.”

“There’s not a phone either.  It’s a clean environment.”

“Isn’t that convenient for you?”

“Sylvia, what are you saying?”

She slammed on the brakes, prompting cars behind them to lean on their horns.  Sylvia paid no attention to them, turning to glare at Tim.  “Maybe you found some lab bunny to get dirty with in the clean room.”

“What?  That’s crazy!  You know how much I care about you.  I just lost track of time, that’s all!”  He held her gaze as he said this, which he’d never found easy to do.  Whenever he looked into her hazel eyes, he caught a glimmer of something he couldn’t identify, a kind of knowing glimmer to suggest she knew everything about him already.

“OK, I believe you,” she finally said.  Without acknowledging the furious drivers behind her, she hit the accelerator so that the truck lurched forward.  “I just wish I mattered as much to you as this science stuff.”

“You do matter as much to me.  You matter more.”

“You sure as hell don’t act like it.”

He shrugged.  “It’s just that we’re at a critical time right now.  What we’re doing could redefine space exploration for the next half-century.”

“Which is a lot more important than a lunch date with your girlfriend.”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You implied it.”

“I’m sorry.”  He shrugged again.  “Tell me what I can do to make it up to you.”

She turned to him, but this time she leered at him.  “I think I can think of a few ways.”


They ate lunch at a nearby greasy spoon, bolting hamburgers and fries so they could both get back to work.  By all appearances everything was right again between her and Tim.  He promised to be more attentive to her needs and meet her for lunch on Tuesday.

“What about Monday?” she asked.

“I have a meeting with Mr. Ward.  He wants to discuss an idea of mine.”

“What is it?”

Tim shifted uncomfortably in his half of the booth.  “I really can’t say.”

“You afraid I’ll blab about it to someone?”  She tried patting him on the hand and smiling gently at him as she said, “Baby, I don’t understand your ideas that well to blab about them.”

“It’s not that.  I just don’t want to get your hopes up—or mine.  If Mr. Ward doesn’t like it, then it’ll wind up in the drawer with my other ideas.”

“Don’t talk that way, Tim.  You’re the most brilliant person I know when it comes to this stuff.”

“Really?  What about Dr. Earl?”

“She’s a geologist.  She plays with rocks, not mechanical thingies.”  Again she patted his arm to reassure him.  Whenever he spoke of Emma, Sylvia detected not jealousy so much as a feeling of inferiority.  Part of this stemmed from that she had a PhD and he didn’t, though he claimed he didn’t need one for his work.  He also didn’t know fifteen languages and couldn’t recite the Periodic Table in alphabetical order or by atomic weights.

He had met briefly with Emma at dinner once, but she had left before the main course to pour out her heart to Dan Dreyfus.  While Sylvia had done her best to smooth this over, she suspected Tim had taken that as a slight as he had not asked to see Emma since then.  He probably thought she had been unimpressed with his work, that he wasn’t a real scientist like her.

“I suppose,” Tim said.

“You’re doing a great job at this TriTech place.  I’m sure Mr. Ward is going to approve whatever you give him.  Maybe he’ll even let you take a day off or two.”


That had effectively ended their conversation for the day.  She had driven him back to TriTech’s headquarters, what had been St. Luke’s Hospital until a quarter century ago.  She leaned out the truck’s window to kiss him briefly on the lips before he hurried into the building, no doubt to resume his work.

Sylvia asked Val to cover her last hair appointment so that she could go out back to the gun range.  From her office, she retrieved a prototype Colt revolver she had won from its inventor.  The gun didn’t pack the same wallop as others in her inventory, but it had sentimental value to her as a symbol of her new life.

She had just come to America a month earlier from France, where Aggie was still playing house with Alejandro.  The wild American frontier appealed to Sylvia; there would be nothing there to remind her of her old life.  So after landing in Rampart, she made her way to Texas.

She couldn’t remember the name of the town; she only knew it no longer existed.  The coach had dropped her off there and she’d quickly found her way to the bar to drown her troubles in whiskey.  Her French-accented English quickly drew her a swarm of admirers.  One of these went by the name of Samuel Colt.

He introduced himself and began to describe what he did.  She cut him off, snarling, “I know what you do.  I’ve been looking to get my hands on some of those.”

“A lady like you shouldn’t concern yourself with firearms,” Colt said.

“Lady?”  She gulped down her whiskey and then let out a belch.  “I’m not a lady.”  Alejandro had told her as much their last night together.  While they had lain in bed together, he had whined that he couldn’t possibly divorce Agnes to marry someone as undignified as Sylvia; the scandal would ruin him!

Sylvia dismounted from her bar stool to glare down at Colt.  She stabbed him in the chest with one fingernail.  “I bet I can shoot your gun better than you.”

The people of that now-dead town gathered the next morning in front of the church for the great battle of the sexes.  Sylvia staggered into the square, nearly tripping over her skirt on a few occasions.  To make it a fair fight she hadn’t whipped up a potion to cure her hangover from the night before, so that her stomach churned and head pounded.

The carcasses of three steers had been fetched to use as the targets.  Each steer was ten feet past the previous one.  Whoever came closer to the bulls eye painted on each steer would be crowned as the winner.  Colt was already waiting there for her with a pair of his new revolvers.

“Ladies first,” he said.

“Fine, then you go first,” she said.

After this insult the contest nearly didn’t happen.  Some of the men in the town shouted for her to be run out on a rail—or worse—for her disrespect.  The marshal came forward to plead for silence, not realizing that with a wave of her hand she could have made all of the troublemakers disappear.  The marshal took a silver coin from his pocket.  “We’ll flip to decide who goes first.  Heads for Mr. Colt and tails for Miss Joubert.”  He mispronounced her name as “Jew-bert” instead of the proper French, “Jow-bear.”

The coin came up heads, as Sylvia willed it.  Colt went first.  He easily hit the first target directly in the center.  “Your shot,” he said.  She nodded to him, raised the pistol, and fired, hitting exactly the same spot.  The results were the same with the second steer.

For the third and farthest steer, Colt took a moment to sight the weapon.  He squinted, his tongue sticking out from the corner of his mouth.  He fired.  The shot stuck in the third of the three rings, but just a half-inch from the center.  Still, he smiled at her confidently.  “Your turn,” he said to her.

She didn’t need to spend as much time sighting the weapon; she had been using firearms since she was twelve years old.  She did allow herself a moment to steady her balance into proper firing position and then squeezed the trigger.  She turned away before the shot hit to face her detractors.  From their stunned expressions, she knew she had hit the center mark.

“Well, there you go,” she said.  “If you don’t mind, I have to get ready for my coach.”  She stuffed the revolver into the waist of her skirt and then began staggering back towards the hotel.  It wasn’t until she reached the room that she allowed herself a satisfied grin.  For the first time since that awful last night with Alejandro, she felt like herself again.

At that point she had resolved to herself not to let a man interfere with her life again.  She had spent the next twenty years prowling the American southwest, selling arms to Indian tribes to oppose the whites taking their land.  It was the night after the Wounded Knee massacre when word came to her in El Paso that Alejandro had died.

She used magic for the first time in twenty years to vanish herself back to France.  She had appeared in the parlor, clad in her dusty cowboy outfit.  Agnes, who at that point appeared to be in her mid-fifties, collapsed against Sylvia, crying.  “What am I going to do now?” Agnes asked while Sylvia ineffectually patted her back.

“Come back to America with me,” Sylvia said.  “We’ll start over there.”

While Sylvia would have preferred to go back to El Paso or another frontier town, she knew Agnes could never survive there.  Agnes had always been a more proper lady.  So they had found a nice little house in Rampart, the house they still occupied, and put the memories of France—and Alejandro—behind them, the only reminder being that Agnes refused to change her name back.

As Sylvia emptied the revolver time and again into paper targets, she thought of the promise she’d made to herself back in that little Texas town.  Was she making the same mistake by allowing Tim into her heart?  She still wasn’t a lady, but that didn’t seem to bother Tim, at least not yet.  In time would he find someone who would want to settle down with him and raise a family?  Could that someone be her?

Firing another round, she considered that maybe it was time for her to settle down.  Maybe it was time to stop selling guns and focus exclusively on the salon—and Tim.  When the time was right, maybe they could get married and she could finally be a mother in the way she hadn’t been able to last time because of her cowardice.

She holstered her weapon.  Now wouldn’t be the right time to discuss this with Tim, not with his work schedule.  She would have to wait until things calmed down.  Maybe by then she would know what she wanted.

The Tutorial continues with Part 3 on Thursday


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