I’ve been spending the last few days in contemplation of the new science fiction premise I came up with a few weeks back. And after reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s articles on Rethinking The Writing Business, which, yes, I’m referencing again, I decided to take a page from her book—er, blog—and try assembling a spreadsheet in which to put all the various premises, ideas, characters, elements, objects, ongoing or potential themes and situations, etc, etc, that would make up my concept and story potential.
At first, the idea of the spreadsheet was pretty daunting. After reading the articles, I’d considering making similar spreadsheets for some of my past novels, with the idea of breaking them down into individual IP elements that might be mixed, matched and resold later (somehow). But the sheer scale of the project drew me up short, not to mention my not knowing how I’d sell any of it in the first place.
But when it came to a new and as-yet undocumented project, I thought: Okay, let’s just buckle down and try it. The result: 62 individual elements (and possibly counting) related to the original premise. And was it all that difficult? I’ll be honest: Not at all. In fact, it’s really just a different formatting of the notes I usually take on any novel project, which encompass premises, characters, settings, themes, stories and backstories, technology, history, etc, etc, that go into my final writing.
When I outline a new story, I refer to my detailed notes as I go, and combine the two into a story breakdown, roughly a paragraph for each story chapter. I refine that until I have a complete document of story points to guide me, and it allows me to write the novel straight through, with only minor adjustments as I go, start-to-finish within a casual month. That’s been my method of novel-writing from the beginning, and it’s served me well.
After looking through the IP spreadsheet, I could tell it would serve me just as well as my usual notes for detailing my story elements and writing a novel. But its value is in that it would also suit to use in other projects, say, writing screenplays or teleplays, developing web or audio content, or even creating physical products like toys and models. And it can be expanded to include information on license purchasers, contract information, prices, effective dates, and a horde of other information.
Yes, the spreadsheet can do all that. But will it? Spreadsheet or no, I’m still an unknown independent author without a shred of this mysterious selling savvy I’m supposed to have. Could I just go write a novel? Yes; but I have little to expect in return for all that effort, so I’m not sold on that idea at the moment. And if I don’t have the resources required to achieve my property’s potential, what should I do with it?
Maybe the thing to do, now that the IP spreadsheet is developed, is to put it aside in anticipation of a future time when I can properly market and profit from it. Maybe the thing to do is concoct a new property, develop a new spreadsheet of IP elements, save and put that aside… then start another one. And another. Maybe I need to think of my IP like shiny coins, the kind you stick in a drawer because you think they just might be worth something in the future. Until I someday make a useful contact, or gain a new resource, or get shown a new way to achieve profitability… and then I can open the drawer and pull out all this potential IP to apply.
It just might mean someday I’ll have a drawerful of ideas that never saw the light of day, and will be tossed when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil (if I don’t toss them myself before that). It might mean I’ll have something to do in the future, maybe when I have nothing else to occupy me and I just want to burn through the days. It might mean I’ll have something of some value to sell outright, when my interest has waned, my budget is wanting and I can use the extra income. It’s too early to tell at this point. Guess I’d better clear a drawer.