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Writing Process Tutorial, Conclusion

May 2, 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 today you’ll see how Chapter 4 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

He won’t go to a hospital, so Emma takes him to Becky’s house and nurses him with a little of Aggie’s help.  When the Rat is more alert, Emma asks him what happened but he doesn’t know.  She and Pepe go into the sewers later to hunt for clues and interrogate other rats, but don’t really turn up anything.


Phase 2:  Outline

Chapter 4:

  • On her new used bike, she races to the scene, trying not to focus on her feelings for Jim.  There are already city workers at the scene so she has to sneak past them.
  • She gets into the sewers and begins hunting for Jim.  Along the way she probably finds something significant like part of a remote control or something that at the time she isn’t sure what it goes to.
  • She finally reaches the source of the cave-in and digs out the Sewer Rat.  He’s alive but injured.  He refuses to be taken to the hospital so she takes him to Becky’s house.


Phase 3:  First Draft

Chapter 4

The motorcycle was the second Emma had owned.  Her first she had been forced to pawn after losing her job at the Plaine Museum almost two years earlier.  That bike had been top-of-the-line, its powerful engine made even more so by a few modifications.

Teaching at Rampart State didn’t pay as well as assistant director of the Plaine Museum, so her second bike didn’t have nearly as much horsepower.  The engine struggled to get above a hundred miles per hour, which at the moment seemed painfully slow to Emma.  She wove her way through traffic, trying not to think about the fact she wasn’t wearing the magic armor and thus could splatter herself all over the pavement if she hit a bump.  Not only that, she would also kill Pepe, whose claws were digging into Emma tight enough that she knew she’d have a few bloody marks later.

She didn’t care about these problems.  Jim was trapped, dying or possibly even dead.  While most of Rampart City wouldn’t shed a tear for the demise of the Sewer Rat, Emma had come to value him as a friend in the last two years.  He had saved her life when the Black Dragoon had destroyed The Sanctuary with a bomb.  If not for the Sewer Rat nursing her back to health she would almost certainly have died then.  He had also helped her in stopping a renegade alien explorer known as Koschei, not to mention he allowed her to use the sewers to easily travel through the city.  Because of all that, she couldn’t leave him to die now.

From what Pepe said, Jim had been in his workshop, an abandoned pipe where he worked on sculptures made out of trash, when some of the other rats had reported an intruder.  Jim, along with Pepe and some of the older and larger rats, went to investigate.  Leading the way, Jim had been caught in the explosion, cut off from the others by falling debris.

The debris was too thick to allow the rats to communicate with their leader, so Pepe couldn’t be sure if Jim had survived or not.  The only way to find out would be for Emma to go down there and use the armor to dig through the rubble.  On the surface this seemed easy enough to accomplish.

Then she saw the sirens ahead of her.  There were the traditional blue and red sirens of the police department, but also yellow sirens of city workers.  Emma slowed the motorcycle, knowing it wouldn’t do any good to go barreling into a crowd of city employees, especially without the armor.

Pulling off to the sidewalk, she eased the bike into one of Rampart City’s many alleys.  While her second motorcycle didn’t have as powerful of an engine, it did have the same security features; a jolt of 50,000 volts would run through anyone who tried to steal the bike.  Pepe hopped down to the ground to allow Emma to get off.  She sprinted to the end of the alley, where she figured it would be safe to summon the armor again.

Over the last seven years she had gotten donning the armor down to a science.  Still, it seemed to take forever for her this time.  When she finally dropped the helmet over her head, she bolted towards the end of the alley.  She didn’t bother with the cape, not caring at the moment who saw her.  Instead, she dashed into the road, heading for the nearest manhole cover.  Around her cars skidded to a halt, but she paid them little mind.

The armor enhanced her muscles enough that she was able to pick up the manhole cover like a dinner plate and then push it aside.  With time being of the essence, she dropped herself through the opening, into the sewage below.  Some of Pepe’s relatives squealed in surprise at her sudden landing.  “Don’t be afraid,” she hissed at them in ratspeak.

Then she took off running again.


She didn’t get far before she saw the first of the city workers.  They wore yellow rubber suits so that they resembled longshoremen as they waded through the sewage.  “Jesus, do you smell that?” one said.

“What the hell do you expect?  It’s a goddamned sewer.”

“Yeah, but still.”

Emma followed behind the two men, keeping her cape wrapped tightly around her.  She paused at the opening where they had come in.  Staring up, she could make out the colored lights of the sirens from the police cars and city vehicles.  She wondered fleetingly if Captain Donovan would show up for this or if she would leave this to her subordinates.

Then Emma plunged on ahead.  She flattened herself against one wall of the sewer pipe to ease herself around the two city workers, who were discussing the stench of the sewage in various neighborhoods.  Emma had gotten to know these odors quite well herself, to the point where she could have found her way around simply by the smell.

“Christ, did you see the size of that?” one worker shouted.

“Probably some kind of mutant,” the other said.

Pepe came up beside Emma a moment later.  He was large for an ordinary rat, but not as big as some of his brethren in the Rampart City sewers.  Like the city workers, Emma wondered if there was some kind of mutating substance in the sewage, perhaps an industrial byproduct from one of the city’s numerous factories.

She didn’t have time to consider this at the moment.  She allowed Pepe to get in front of her, leading her to the site of the accident.  The city workers fell farther and farther behind, clearly having no stomach for this late-night exploration of the city’s underground.  She couldn’t blame them as she had often enough felt queasy coming down here even with the armor.  That was at least until her time in Jim’s care.

Thinking about Jim, she didn’t see the object until she kicked it with her boot.  The visor of her helmet allowed her to see where the object splashed down in the sewage.  It was probably something worthless, but then again it might be something Jim had left behind.

Hopping into the sewage, she fished around with her glove until she found it.  Holding it up, she saw it wasn’t something belonging to Jim, but it wasn’t worthless either.  It was a remote control, not unlike the type a child might use for a toy car.  She doubted in this case that was what it had been used for; more likely it had been used as a detonator.

Emma studied the remote for a moment before tucking it into a pouch on her belt.  She would have to examine it later, though she doubted it would provide any solid leads.  It did tell her that someone might have tried to kill Jim.  If not directly then indirectly at least.

Pepe let out a squeak of joy, pointing with his snout at the way ahead.  Through the visor, Emma could see the rubble of the sewage pipe blocking the way.  “Stay back,” she said to Pepe.  Then she pulled the Sword of Justice from its scabbard.  The blade glowed with a dim yellow light, which told Emma that if someone had used the remote to trigger an explosion, that person had long since gone or else surely the blade would have glowed brighter in the presence of evil.

She took a few cautious swipes at the rubble, the blade slicing through the cement and metal is if it were butter.  This loosened things enough that she could easily sweep aside more of the rubble, enough to get her head through the opening.

On the other side was Jim.


He lay on his back in the sewage, his arms and legs spread-eagled.  “Jim,” she whispered.  He didn’t move.  “Jim!” she said louder.  He still didn’t move.

Unbidden, Pepe crawled over Emma to drop through the opening.  The rat swam over to his leader’s side, poking at Jim’s rat fur coat with his snout.  Jim still didn’t move.  Pepe looked up at Emma with concern but indicated Jim was still alive.

Emma breathed a sigh of relief.  “See if you can push him back a little.  I don’t want anything falling on him.”

With the Sword of Justice she began chopping up more of the rubble and then used her hands to clear it away.  Despite the magic sword and armor, this still took a few minutes, which to Emma seemed like separate eternities.  Behind her, she could hear the voices of the city workers echoing through the tunnel.  It wouldn’t be long until they got here.  If they found Jim, they would turn him over to the police, who would in turn hand him over to a mental hospital or prison.  There was no way Jim could survive in either place, not without losing his mind.

She wouldn’t let that happen.  She flung more rubble away, enough for her to squeeze through.  Then she reached through the opening to pile some of the rubble back up, making it more difficult for the city workers to reach her and Jim.  It wouldn’t hold them long, but it would be just long enough for her to get Jim to safety.

With the flimsy blockade in place, she knelt down beside Jim.  As Pepe had indicated, he was still alive.  She risked dragging him out of the sewage to one of the cement embankments.  There she brushed aside his coat to examine his wounds.

Blood oozed from a wound in his right side, just above his kidney.  It didn’t look deep enough to have done any serious damage.  More troublesome at the moment was the shrapnel in his right leg.  These wounds were far deeper, almost to the bone and bleeding much more seriously.  If she didn’t get him help soon, he might lose the leg—if not his life.

As if sensing her thoughts, his eyes snapped open.  Even in the darkness of the sewer, he stared her in the eye.  “No doctors,” he said.

“Jim, I have to.  You’re hurt.  Badly.”

“No!” he said.  He tried to sit up but then winced with pain and sagged back down.  “No hospitals.”

She heard the city workers beginning to claw at the rubble blocking the tunnel.  It wouldn’t be long before they broke through her pathetic barricade to find her and Jim.  “We don’t have time to argue,” she said.  Without another word she heaved Jim over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

She took off running through the sewer, the armor making Jim seem to weigh nothing.  Pepe scurried ahead of her to scout for any trouble.  At this point she was as worried about the phantom saboteur as the city workers or police.  He—or she—might have left traps behind to discourage any pursuit.

“No doctors,” Jim said again.

“I have to, Jim.”

“No,” he said again, more weakly this time.  “Please.  No.”

Emma didn’t stop, but she felt a pang of sadness from the pleading in Jim’s voice.  He had spent the last quarter-century in Rampart City’s sewers to avoid people.  She had never found out exactly what had driven him down here, but she knew it was something terrible.  Taking him to a hospital then would be just as bad as handing him over to the police.

“All right,” she said.  “No hospital.”

I hope you enjoyed seeing how I develop ideas from start to finish.  Maybe you learned something–if only what not to do.

Terrible Tips Returns on Tuesday!


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