Last night I finished the first big draft 2 pass on Unmortal (check out the latest revision of the cover art). This was the last "structural" pass for the story, meaning all the scenes we need are there and in their proper sequencing. Next comes all the fit-and-finish stuff: polishing dialogue, cutting redundancies, avoiding clichés, etc. After that comes the cleanup pass for grammar and spelling, and then after that I take everyone out to dinner to celebrate.
There's enough in place at this point, and of a high enough quality, for me to feel happy about it. The arc of coming-together for this project was very much in line with how it's been for me with past projects I thought highly of. Something like this:
This general process has stood me in good stead for a while now, although I have to pinch myself every so often and say "It's a process and not a dogma." That is, there's room for deviation from some parts of the plan to make the story work as a story, and not just as an idea.
But the thing that must exist, no matter what other steps I take to bring the whole shebang together, is the arc of the story's "emotional arrow". It ends with that arrow going smack! in the bullseye of a certain feeling, a sentiment about the way things are, one that colors and enlivens all the ideas and happenings that have taken place up to that point. No arrow, no story. No character to fire that arrow, no story either. The greatest difficulties with my stories always came from not having such an arrow, or from having no one to shoot it.
Another project I currently have back-burnered, Absolute Elsewhere, currently exists in such a state of limbo because it is missing at least two important elements. One is a big chunk of the story's what-if (it's more like the "how-does-the-what-if"); the other is a person at the center of all this that it happens to. I had one candidate for such a person, but they didn't really seem robust enough to support the goings-on. And so the quest continues for someone to be at the center of that project.
With Unmortal, the "what if" quality of the story was of such a nature that it provided me almost immediately with a good roster of characters. One of them had the close-to-the-floor quality I wanted in a main character for such a setting — someone who could walk us through everything and see it from the underside up.
I hope whatever comes next arcs as cleanly.