Series, worlds, and learning to write

I’ve had several different way of planning and plotting books over the years, and I switched between them many times before smushing them all together. On one hand I thought I’d make one book/series per set of characters. I remember getting this idea from the back of a book, the blurb praising the author for having a new world and story with each novel. I loved that idea and ran with it for years. I created entirely different worlds, sets of magic, places, and everything else I could think of. In my head I also called this the Disney version- given that each movie was a good deal different than the others, but they all had this Disney feel.

But the part of me that loved epilogues, next-generation stories, sequels (even some Disney ones) and Tamora Pierce’s books didn’t want me to just end it after *one* story. So I’d expand, getting to know the stories of my characters’ children, or their parents, or friends. I’d make up sequel series, or think to give each character their own book a piece. That’s how I always split the volumes in my head, not by arc, but by each character specifically. And if the series would be uneven that always bothered me- it *had* to be equal. (This may have been my OCD flaring up now that I think about it). A stand-alone novel was unacceptable if another character got a trilogy. Eventually when that got too out of hand and complicated I’d rationalize that it was too much and go back to the one-set idea, or even one-book idea (then later I’d expand again, only to shrink it, etc).

I’d always keep the worlds apart too. The characters who did necromancy just didn’t live in the same worlds as my werewolves. Or the other werewolves. Or the vherwolves. (I like wolves a lot, can you tell? Yes, I was that girl). But similar themes or magics or even a character would occasionally find their way in two different worlds, so that also got me thinking..

And came the third way of plotting which was to shove all of my ideas into one world. Worlds are huge after all- the cultural and economic and lifestyle differences between someone living in LA or Bangladesh or Australia are all very different. So why not make a true world that was different all over?

This method proved tricky (I rarely do easy and straight-forward), since I went for an all-or-nothing approach (as usual), and I spent a good deal of time maneuvering a way that all of my characters, from all of my different stories and places, could all be tied together and related. I made this amazing huge family tree that I still have saved because it’s just so good (spoilers, old information, and changed names abound compared to now though).

I quickly realized how insane that was and started to pull the sets apart again, but I kept them in the same world. The fact that they didn’t all have to stacked on top one another didn’t mean I couldn’t still make a more reasonable plan.

So each set of magic/characters were given their own realm as opposed to their own whole world, and a world was created out of these varying cultures and magics that did at times cross-over (just like in the real world).

Now I’ve said this before in previous posts and in random places online, so why am I repeating it? Because *I* still need to remind myself. I still keep trying to shove an entire character’s story into one series, still thinking it has to be that cut and dry. “This is Pierre’s story” with little mention of anyone else, and then “This is Félicien’s story” which has to, say, end when Pierre’s begins because cross-over that way didn’t ‘work’ for me.

The Larkspur series, for instance, was originally called The Courting of Life and Death. The very first edition of the novelette actually had that as the series name (and it pops up in online searches). It was meant to be Pierre’s story first and foremost, and was to span several years, decades even, focusing mostly on him and his magic.

That changed even as I just began to edit and rewrite small parts of Larkspur (there were a few cover changes at the start, editing done by me and then an actual editor, things I realize I’ll do now before I release another book, but was so excited and happy to finish the first time). I changed the series to the Larkspur series and then decided it was Pierre and Lizzy’s story more than just his. But I still sort of planned for those decades of time to be incorporated (made sense, they would both be a large part of it).

 

The more I write about the day-to-day stuff in Delphinium, the more I realize there is so much going on that I can’t just gloss over years worth of time. There’s politics, and fée stuff, and other characters all of whom are important in varying ways. It keeps both growing and shrinking as I write, the love-story expanding while the ‘ending’ being ‘many years in the future’ making less sense. But I was still so stuck on the idea that I needed to start and finish up Pierre’s story in one series.

Yesterday I was working on what might be the sequel series to Larkspur (so also set in Clandestina). And it just didn’t make sense to begin that late in the timeline. But my head was being stupid and telling me I needed to finish Pierre’s story first before I began that section.

Finally, right before I started to write out this post, I realized that it was ok. I could ‘shorten’ the Larkspur series to just be the beginning of Pierre and Lizzy’s life together. That’s a good thing to base a series around. And I could begin the next set with Pierre and Lizzy still around, their story going on along with this new arc that they would also be involved in.

It may seem silly, but for years and years I thought I needed to break up stories by characters and not arc (I love your work, Tamora Pierce, but I think your series’ may be a little responsible for me thinking this way).

Somewhat off-topic now (but it’s my blog so it’s ok), but I feel like Delphinium is my first real book because of all this. With Larkspur I was still in that wobbly-place of not sure what I wanted to write but wanting to finish something. I was thinking of it as a long scene (it originally was just one scene. I thought I’d write my books in inter-connected scenes by realm, like chapter-books, so I could get around the idea of a ‘series’ or even set books) It’s how I thought at the time. And I still like that method of story-telling, it’s why I began to write up the Scenes here on my blog. But a book isn’t just a snippet in time, or even a few snippets put together. I like what I wrote with ‘Fée Child’ below, but when I get around to writing the book that that takes place in, there will be a lot more to it. There’s plot, and lots of characters, and an arc. I wasn’t thinking that way with Larkspur- so like many have said, it does feel short, and abrupt, and like just the start to something with no end.

In that way Larkspur is a prequel story, a short that brings you into the doorway of the world, but you haven’t seen much else. I’m still learning as I write and that is why Delphinium is taking me so much time. It started as another ‘slightly longer short’ and now may hit 100K.

 

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