Surprisingly, trying to make getting through school a bit easier actually taught us something.
It’s been over three years (holy shit, that long? yes, really!) since I wrapped up Caves with a terrible ending and called it good enough. It’s been almost five years since I wrote down the first loose ideas on what I fully intend on turning into my magnum opus one day, despite knowing full well that the core of it all is too weak to allow that to happen. That’s a lot of time, and what did I get out of it? Nothing more than some thoughts.
If I want to have any chance at all of turning loose thoughts into a cohesive and compelling narrative, I’m going to have to anchor it down. No frivolous side stories, no ambitious worldbuilding. Just enough to write the SparkNotes for my stories, just enough to make a middle-schooler pass an oral exam on them.
Well-written SparkNotes are great at extracting only the bare essentials from stories. A summary of the important plot elements, and a breakdown of the themes, motifs and messages found within. You could hand them off to a different writer and get more or less the same story back. So, starting from there doesn’t seem unreasonable at all. Gives me a clear angle of attack and everything.
Of course all of this is just the classic outlining approach to writing a story, but at least it’s a fresh take.