Monday, January 9, 2012

Chapter 3, Progress Update

So, the first week of 2012 is over and I was quite busy. One thing I really wanted to get rolling, before I start my work on Chapter 3, is our new translation workflow. After the release of Chapter 1, when the first people emailed me offering translations of the graphic Novel, I sent out a Word document with the script to every individual translator. This went fine with a few translations. But when there was a dozen of translations, and the scripts had to be sent back and forth for revisions, and when we then even started to split up the work between different translators, it was becoming a real pain.

For Chapter 2 I decided to work with an online spreadsheet in Google Documents. The document is located on the Google server and you can work on it in your browser window. You can share the document with as many people as you like and you can even work simultaniously on translations. As the document owner you get a history of all changes to the document and you can set it back to any point in this history in case anything goes wrong. I have to say, this system is a real lifesaver. Translators receive an invitation by mail and can start their work immediately. The spreadsheet format is perfect to copy & paste the texts into the layout. And I have to say that it is a very cool feeling opening up the document and finding several people typing their translations and watching the whole thing grow in realtime.

There are already 22 translators working on the document and we currently have a very nice mix of languages from all over the world including Arabic, Korean and Hindi. I'm really looking forward to provide you all these translations during the next weeks and months. 

Concerning Chapter 3, I'm ready now to start the prelim version that precedes every chapter. Last week I returned to the Story Wall and did a major revision on everything that was on it. 

Before the revision I simply used the yellow sticky notes to describe the major plot points of each chapter. A few days ago I realized that the plot actually isn't the aspect that I have to concentrate on in my visualization on the wall. I was totally neglecting the most important aspect: the stories. I remembered a line from a book about storytelling I've read a few years ago: "in order to make a good movie you don't need a story. You need a dozen stories!" That was a rather revealing thought for me. Up to that point I naively thought of "story" to be just the description of the things that happen. But that's plot. A "story" is a more abstract construct that describes a certain theme (e.g. "boy loves girl" or "revenge") that is developed through a "story arc" which spans over several "story beats". What I did in my revision is to identify the different stories in my plot and visualize their "beats" with the arrows you see next to the yellow plotline. A story normally has at least three beats in my visualization - introduction, build-up and resolution - but it can have as many beats as you want.

For example, the story with the most beats that I identified in the first two chapters is what I called "Egon Breaks Out". The story is introduced when Egon yells at a car during the carride in Chapter 1. From that point on we know that Egon can become very loud and angry. The story is build up over several beats (Egon wants Jonas to carry his suitcase, Egon asks Jonas to do the homework together, Egon calls for dinner and receives no answer) but it's always calmed down again and never brought over the point of break-out. However, after discovering that Jonas is lying to him, Egon finally breaks out and this is the climax/solution of this story. On my story wall I have marked all climaxes with a black triangle (and minor story resolutions with a black point). As you can see, there are a lot of stories that find their climaxes or resolutions at the end of Chapter 2 and that's exactly what you want when your protagonist starts onto an adventure. You want to leave things behind and create a clean slate for the story arcs of the adventure itself.

After revising the first two chapters I created the plotline and story beats for chapter 3 and 4. As you can see, things develop a lot slower and story beats are less dense. The reason for this is, that I now start story arcs that span over Jonas' whole adventure which is going to be much longer than 2 chapters so there's more time and space to develop the stories. I also have space for exposition, which is marked with green arrows on the wall. At these points I will just dive into the Wormworld and tell you how it works.

I'm quite happy with this system now as it will help me to develop the plot in a way that serves the different stories. Also, the visualization will directly show me when the plot gets too thin meaning that there are not enough story beats that keep the narration from becoming boring.

I'll continue to develop my process and keep you updated on it. I also hope to find some time to go into more detail someday. I consider the storytelling to be one of the most fascinating and challenging aspects of the project.

I'm going to create the prelim version of Chapter 3 now and you are going to hear from me when I'm ready to enter the milestone phase.


  1. I find all of the behind-the-scenes information fascinating.

    Do you know how many chapters the saga is likely to last?

  2. how can one obtain the access to that document? I'd like to help with translations

  3. Andrew,

    the process of organizing the story beats keeps the number of chapters floating a bit. However, I roughly plan for 15 to 20 chapters for each part of the trilogy.


    You can send me an email ( if you want to offer a translation.

  4. Thank you! It looks like I have a few years of enjoyment lined up for me then! Long may it continue!

  5. I think I can write it here: on the Italian there is a little error: when in English you wrote "Daniel Lieske presents" in Italian was translated "presente" instead of "presenta"

  6. I don't want to upset any carefully-planned schemes here but -- I hope that neither Egon nor Wiggins are completely left behind! It could get verrrrry interesting if each of them individually followed Jonas into the Wormworld and had their own adventures, reacting to it in their individual ways. Eventually needing to be rescued, perhaps, by Jonas...

  7. Anonymous,

    that's the beauty with stories like this - you have NO idea how it will continue. :)


    this is the list of the languages the Wormworld Saga is getting translated to right at the moment:

    Brazilian Portuguese

    That's some list, isn't it? :)

  8. Impressive work and i'm honestly eager to see how this will go on in the 3rd Chapter.
    Any news from Robot Media with regards to the Android App?
    Would love to see how this looks on my Galaxy Tab.

  9. I sent you messages with my offer of translation some weeks ago, but I see you already have a hungarian translator. :)

  10. Hi!
    Love your story.
    Interested in a swedish translator?


    1. Martin,

      definitely! Please send me an email to if you want to join the translation document!

  11. Daniel, I want to thank you for this really nice story! I can say: That's the best "graphic novel" I've ever have seen, and I love it much. I'm really looking forward for more to read and watch.
    But here I want to thank you too, that you let us join your work progress (in detail)! This is better then a daily soap :) It makes the Wormworld Saga more real and attractive. Please go on like this. I'm very curious how it goes on.

  12. Hi Daniel,

    I'm a huge fan and have been following your development since your first uploaded chapter one! It's amazing to see the development and final product be put together in front of your very eyes - it's really quite inspiring.

    I've always wondered about your title font and if you created it yourself or if it's a free font and how exactly one should go about choosing a font for the title of their project?

    Keep up the good work please :)

    1. My Dear Loyal Fan,

      the Wormworld Saga Logo is lettered by hand. I searched inside calligraphy books for a suitable scripture and I based the logo on "Capitalis Quadrata". I changed some of the letters (I put a crossbar into the "A" for example) but it is more or less the traditional form of this scripture.

  13. Dan! Awesome method for keeping up with the story!

    I've never written novella length texts because of (in hindsight) my lack of stories.

    When you have more developed on your method and want to take it to a computer program, let me know and we'll make it happen.

  14. Hello, I just wanted to let you know that I happened to stumble onto chapter 1 via stumbleupon and I fell in love with it. I kept it bookmarked and waited for chapter 2. I have just read chapter 2 and your leaving me hungry for more haha. So keep up the good work!

  15. Dear Daniel,

    do you still remember the title and/or author of the Storytelling-book you speak of? I'm very curious!

    1. I don't quite remenber which book exactly contained the passage I was talking about. I read 'Story' by Robert McKee and 'Save The Cat!' by Blake Snyder. There's also a book called 'The Art and Science of Screenwriting' by Philip Parker which I read the German edition of ('Die Kreative Matrix'). All three are worth a reading but I particularly enjoyed 'Story'. Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you, Daniel, that was really helpful!

  16. Hello, Daniel.
    Your stile has inspired me very much.
    Can you recommend a good book on composition?
    A big fan of the Wormworld Saga :)

  17. Woah, I love your storytelling-method. Reading your thoughts just now really help me understand a similar problem I've been having with a project of my own. I too have been neglecting to see the individual stories in my plot. And your method using post-its is ingenious! :)
    I'd love to read more on your ideas on storytelling!