In Two Weeks…The Force Is With Me

Steven Barnes
3 min readMay 15

In two weeks, I’ll start writing the Star Wars novel. Right now, I’ve gone from a stack of index cards to an eleven-page outline. The basic external plot flow is clunky but workable. What I have to do now is re-read it daily, tweaking on paper and inserting the changes into the Google doc. I have to look at the image systems and ask how they connect to the thematic core.

STAR WARS is fantasy with SF image systems. As such, it is about how it all FEELS, rather than whether everything connects to physics. It is primarily heart-space, not head-space. And in some ways, more difficult to navigate…if you take your job seriously. And I do.

So…I’m going to go non-linear. One thought is to use the Hero’s Journey and distribute the 10 steps around the points of an enneagram. Enneagrams are paper computers that show the relationships between aspects of dynamic process (most people only know the “enneagram of personality” which might be 5% of its use). By looking at the lines inside, I can ask myself questions about how the different major aspects of plot or process relate to each other. It is actually possible to create a non-linear plot structure composed of about 20 questions about the relationship of different aspects. What you’re doing then is looking at the inner and outer structure of a story simultaneously. It’s a really nifty trick, and one I created after I taught Clarion twenty years ago, and a woman asked if there was a “Heroine’s Journey.” Quizzing her, I suspected she was asking about non-linear relations between aspects of life, in a sort of “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” sense. On the plane home I created that enneagram diagram, looked at the connecting lines, and asked myself questions like “how does recognizing the existence of a problem relate to the gathering of allies or the development of new capacities?”

It creates a sort of “cloud” of associations that is fascinating, and useful. I think that, now that I have a direct sense of the way things could flow, it is more useful to step out of time and just ask how different things FEEL — to the characters, to me, to the reader.

This is the point at which “unconscious competence” kicks in. And the “paper computer” can help me externalize my feelings and thoughts about this.

Humans are, after all, tool-using animals.


Anyway, my “day job” at this point will be the Niven project. I solved a major problem (in a very real…

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts.