On the Worldbuilding of Skies Unbroken

Skies Unbroken uses an exploratory method of worldbuilding, one I honed in my time running Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. Like D&D, I started with a cast of characters, a set of initial conditions, and a general framework of where I wanted the story to go. Those in hand, I built and adapted the world around the characters and story. As the story moved forward, the world expanded with it, a growing ring of concretely defined world knowledge (things and events spoken of or seen in the episodes) as well as distant landmarks connected to the current action (references, history, geography).

When the story demands an answer, I’ll take a step back and fill out the details. I switch from a survey flight to a dig site. Then I try to do a little more on the same topic, just to pocket some info for later. The current episode, Payload, spun out of this. The Seeders were a footnote, window dressing pocketed for later. It wasn’t until I started working on the later episodes of Season One did the Seeders, or rather their tech, become a component of an episode.

This isn’t to say I’ve been going completely off-the-cuff. This isn’t a full-on Gardener project. I spent a whole lot of time building out the setting, in multiple stylistic revisions, before the story was anything more than outlines and scraps of character backstory. The Guidebook entries are small, refined glimpses of my larger, messy world document. Honestly, anyone reading through my internal worldbook would probably find it incomprehensible and occasionally contradictory (mostly bits from previous iterations saved for reference or salvaging).

I think this style of worldbuilding keeps me in the proper spirit of the project, since it’s a story with significant ties to the spirit of a frontier and the exploration/conquest thereof. Captain Kor Icomb isn’t exactly a grand planner, but he has an end game in sight.

Skies Unbroken Quarterly Report Q2 2016

The past three months have been smooth flying for Skies Unbroken. No complaints or excuses needed! Let’s break it down!

How’d I do?

Consistency is key and the true enemy is disorder. I’ve kept up weekly, on-time updates since mid-March, and my work hours have settled into a steady pattern.

I nearly hit the previous report’s goal of completing Episode Six by the end of June. The episode is rolling out now (Dross) and the second half is drafted and ready for polishing over next week. Right on time, more or less. As for the other goal: I didn’t release much in terms of side content to fill in off-weeks (Regal Conmen aside) because I haven’t had any off weeks to fill. I suppose that’s a good conflict to have.

I’ve had a modest rise in readership and traffic, largely thanks to exposure from Web Fiction Guide, that noble bastion of serial web fiction. I’m always on the look-out for other ways of getting the word out, and those efforts will continue.

What’s next?

The primary goal for the summer months is completion. Only two Episodes remain: Episode 7: Payload and Episode 8: Unnamed Season One Finale. The first is crystal clear in my mind and feels similar to Safari where I’m eager to dig into it. The Finale is a little trickier, functionally a two-part episode with the challenge of weaving a number of threads together. While both episodes are looking like long ones, I think I can crank through them by early August. This might be an optimistic way of jinxing myself, but I always write faster when I’m approaching the end of any given project.

Once Season One is written and complete, a revision begins. The purpose here is two-fold. First, the early episodes could use another round of polish to bring them up to the story’s current quality level. From my perspective, there’s a pretty sharp difference between the pre and post Gloria episodes. Also, there’s a missing Wilcox chapter in Episode Three that I need to complete and insert.

Secondly, there will be an ebook version of Season One and any such release demands an additional round of polish and no typos can hide from my sight. This editing round and the rollout of the final chapters of Season One will certainly carry me through September.

Disclaimer: All time predictions are ballpark estimates and in no way deadlines.

Metrics

Core Narrative ~ 65,000
Supplementary ~ 7,000
Internal Worldbook ~ 15,000
Project Journal and Blog Posts ~ 15,000

Total 102,000 words.

64% Core Narrative
71% Core + Guidebook

I’m very happy with these numbers. The focus on getting episodes out has cut into the supplemental content, but the world building and flavor pieces will return once the final episodes of season one are complete. The final two episodes should push the main narrative word count to 90K or so, a healthy novel length and right on target.

Overall, the completion of season one of Skies Unbroken is on a quick approach and my hard work is paying off. These past three months have been strong and consistent in output, and I will carry that momentum into the finale.

But first I’m taking a mini vacation over the holiday weekend starting…NOW.

News from the Frontier!

The crew of the Wink and Smile are currently knee-deep in the pirate haven of Knucklebone in Episode Five: Teeth. This episode concludes next week!

Skies Unbroken is now listed on Web Fiction Guide, a collection of web serials of all stripes! Check out its listing page for the ability to rate and review the series. Additionally, you can now vote for Skies Unbroken at Top Web Fiction, Web Fiction Guide’s sister site. A vote for Skies Unbroken (HERE) is a vote for adventure!

 

Skies Unbroken Update Bulletin

What’s been happening? I’ll tell you!

Episode Four: Safari approaches its conclusion. Ends next week!

I posted a new Guidebook entry a few weeks ago on the sly: The Conman Who Would Be King.

I opened up comments on Episode pages, Guidebook entries, and new blog posts. Maybe say something nice…?!

Skies Unbroken has surpassed 40,000 words in length. It’s like a very short novel now! I’m past the halfway point of Season One and gaining steam toward the ending.

Huzzah!

Skies Unbroken Quarterly Report: Q1 2016

The second three months of Skies Unbroken was a rough patch. I have a few excuses, some of which are even valid, but the total work was still disappointing. One day I’ll learn to stop publicly declaring goals. Or at the very least, take my initial prediction and halve it. It’s not all bad, though, and I chalk the last three months up to growing pains.

How’d I do?

General Positives: The characters are coming together, especially after giving each member of the crew one-on-one time in Gloria. Any stumbles in output led me to take a step back and do some under the hood work on the setting and story arcs. It became less frustrating when seen as puzzles to be solved or an optimization problem.

I completed episodes two and three. Dust was a brisk, spontaneously added episode. I felt there wasn’t quite enough happening in the first third of the season and drew up the episode to fill the gap. The end result was fine, though I think I’ll spend a fair amount of time on it when I do the season-wide editing pass. Gloria took far longer than expected but each chapter ended up where I wanted it. Except the Wilcox chapter. It simply wasn’t working and I had to cut it, despite the gnawing lack of symmetry such a move produced. He’ll get compensation in a later revision and a boosted presence in the next episode.

What’s next?

I’m reigning in the ambition here and targeting three complete episodes for Q2, a reasonable pace of one a month. Additionally, I want to publish more guidebook and supplemental entries on the inevitable off weeks between episodes. A formal role for the secondary content should help fill the gaps and give me a clearer, easier target when the editing of the main story becomes troublesome.

Episode 4 will assuredly take up almost all of April. It’s looking like the longest episode of the entire season, pushing into novella territory by itself. It’s partially written and shaping up to be a lot of fun. Episode 5 has pirates in it. How hard can that be?! Episode 6 is trickier. It’s always had the loosest outline of the planned episodes and I’m going to plug away at its initial structure this afternoon.

I still want to get a good-looking piece of cover art for season one, but until there’s a budget for it, I’m sticking to a text-only presentation. I’m no graphic designer and my image editing can be considered serviceable only in the kindest light (See: Waterlogged’s, uh, cover).

Metrics!

Core Narrative ~34,500.
Supplementary ~ 6,500.
Internal Worldbook ~ 14,500.
Project Journal and Blog Posts ~ 11,000.

Total 66,500 words.

52% Core Narrative
62% Core + Guidebook

That’s a solid increase in the share of external story content vs internal writing. A goal achieved! The net word count is rather thin. I’m not going to hazard a guess of what the next three months will bring. I’m starting to learn my lesson in making anything but the loosest predictions when it comes to writing and editing.

I will say I feel over the hill in terms of post-beginning growing pains. There are still a number of loose threads, but the core of the Skies Unbroken project is getting stronger and the destination has started to emerge from the mists.