Some of you probably already know that I’m a pantser; in other words, I don’t really like to plan my writing!
Well, I take that back.
I do like having a little bit of a plan, but it’s so sparse that most probably wouldn’t even consider it “a plan.” It’s more like this: “I want [insert big event] to happen in [insert cool locale], where the characters then find/achieve [insert objective]!” Then I just figure out the rest from there. And I think this only has a chance at working because my WIP is a quest or adventure series; it’s “mission-driven fiction,” essentially.
Not plot-driven, exactly, ’cause I still focus on characters along the way, but in terms of planning I think of the story in terms of missions…if that makes sense.
So yeah. That seriously has been my plan for an Element 7 series, in a nutshell. (“What? A series, you say?” Yes, dear readers, you read that right. I should have probably already mentioned that on my E7 page…heh.)
Planning A Series
So I’ve read only a little about how authors like J. K. Rowling went about their work. Apparently, she took around five years to plan the Harry Potter series before writing it, though I can’t recall reading the specifics about how she did this. (It’s probably out there; I just haven’t really looked it up,.) But honestly, there isn’t really a lot of advice out there for folks who do want to write a trilogy or series (not in comparison to other writing topics, anyways). Most times, it seems writers are actually discouraged from doing so–at least when they are working on their first novel.
Apparently, it’s too “cliché,” when you’re writing fantasy…
As for me, “planning” a series has kinda just naturally been happening while working on this first novel—like I’ll be in the middle of a scene and think to myself, “Hey, that would make for a totally cool thing to explore in Book II/III!” And then I just plant the seeds, make a note to water them later and roll with it. (I’ve actually got probably half of Book II planned out by specific scenes I’ve already written or summarized in my journals, with a few ideas for the other half and Book III still subconsciously cooking in my
But really, all I’m doing is using that basic formula I mentioned at the beginning for each subsequent book and designing each end objective so that they tie into one another, leading to the final objective in the last novel, while also figuring out the interconnecting threads (or those “ah-ha!” moments) along the way.
I bet some people wonder why it would possibly take 5+ years to plan out a bunch of books, but now I’m pretty sure I understand why…
There Are Just SO Many Little Details That Have Got to Work Together!
Especially when you’re writing secondary world fantasy. Every piece of invented information that’s in that bad-boy-of-a-series is coming from your brain. It’s like this giant sprawling 200,000-piece puzzle of your own personal design; everything’s gotta fit together. And when you do sit down to try and put this puzzle together, it typically doesn’t happen overnight. Plus, you gotta handcraft all those pieces before that can even happen–nope, none of that computer-aided/die cut business. So you can’t just toss in stuff willy-nilly because you think it’s oh-so-cool (learned that the long, hard way); everything has to have a reason for being in the novels or else you have to work backwards and find a gorram reason for all the dangling stuff to matter.
Harder to do, imo, but doable.
When I first started learning how to write a novel, my mind just couldn’t even begin to grasp this concept. “Whaddya mean I can’t just throw in what I want and expect it to work? Bah! Watch me…” And y’know how that turned out…
Lots and lots of experimental drafts that went nowhere.
But that’s okay! ’cause I eventually figured out how to make all that cool stuff I originally wanted to shoehorn into the same story actually work together—haha! (Or at least I think I have…) Plus, I learned oodles, like…
The Importance of Foreshadowing
…which, I think, is extremely important when you’re planning and writing a trilogy. Foreshadowed details provide rhythm and continuity. They’re like the threads that bind the novels in a series together–along with recurring themes, characters, settings and/or ideas, which all help to create a sense of unity and cohesiveness. (Sorry, I’m using those pesky Principles of Art/Design again…but you’ll find them everywhere that good art or designs reside. Writers and literary critics just tend to use different terminology for them, I think.)
You know how excited you get when you pick up Part II of a book, game or movie series and learn that some of your favorite characters are back? Or the telltale hint—or sometimes outright slap—of a promise that “hey, there’s more yet to come”? For me, that’s part of the excitement of reading/watching/playing a series; it’s also one of the reasons I want to write one. (That, and getting to my favorite “candy bar scenes.”)
…Because I just love the characters that darn much. And the world. They’re just people and places that I’d like to come back to again.
Trust me, if I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t still be working on this project, haha. (5.75 years is a looooong tiiiiime to be attached to the hip with the same ideas…)
For more posts like this, check out my “series” tag!
So how do you plan for a trilogy/series?
Or maybe you’ve never worked on one before; that’s cool. You’ve probably read at least one, though, right? What kind of things do you like about series? What do you wish authors who write series did a better job of?
I know one of the reasons I started writing was because of my own “fantasy novel pet peeves”; I thought hey, why do writers keep doing this and that? Let’s write a story that does it differently!