Monday, 4 February 2019

Planning A Series - The Creative Process


PLANNING A SERIES

I did a series of pieces on series and standalones, which can be found here. But I wanted to touch on this again on a piece on its own. Simply because when I've written series before, they've not had an overreaching plot, but instead have been, mostly, able to read as standalones. However in the time since then, I've written a trilogy, and started two new series and so therefore have a little bit more experience with the whole planning of a series process. I will warn you that when it comes to planning - even as a series - I am not big about thinking ahead. I'm a minimal planner and I'm not someone who feels they are always able to plot beforehand, however I have picked up a few tips along the way that I wanted to share.

#1 - START SMALL AND WORK YOUR WAY UP
This is another way of saying that don't get too far ahead of yourself. While you might have an idea for a trilogy of duology, you may find that as you build up that plot and story that it's morphing into a longer series and that's okay. So long as it works for the genre and each story itself is somewhat resolving, then you're doing fine. What I mean by somewhat resolving is there should be a point to the break. It shouldn't be one huge story broken up into smaller chunks, there should be a reason for the end of each book to fall where it does.

#2 - MAKE SURE THE STORY WORKS
Touching a little again on that last point, you need to make sure that each book has a plot of it's own, even if it's a minor one that's mostly overshadowed by the main series arc. This is because the majority of readers want to feel like they've accomplished something when finishing a book is that they've been told a story, not just fed snippets of an upcoming release that will then tell them the rest of the story. This is imperative with a series that has a long reaching arc because otherwise you're gonna have a lot of people feeling like there was little point to the books that came before the main story started.

#3 - MAKE SURE YOU'RE STARTING AT THE RIGHT POINT
Carrying on from that last point again. Sometimes the story starts later than we realise and there's no need for readers to know all that happened in that first "book", it's nothing that can't be explained as exposition or through smaller chunks of text. Sometimes we start writing or planning a story and writing a lot of filler that's actually unneeded. Sometimes you can cut out whole books by just bringing the start to a point where it makes more sense. So be sure that when you're planning, even if it's something that strikes you later on, that you're starting as close to the inciting incident as possible.

#4 - USE THE BEST CHARACTERS TO TELL THE STORY RIGHT

Making sure you have the right character either in first person or from their eyes if you chose a variation of third person. You want it to be the right person to tell the story, and while it may be tempting to have it told from various different points of view, too many can be hard to track and it can sometimes make it more confusing for the reader and harder for them to relate to the characters. It's a balancing act to find the right point of view and also tell the story in the best way you can.

AND FINALLY #5 - SOMETIMES THROWING THINGS AT A WALL WORKS
By this I mean that sometimes you can do that thought-dump where you throw things at the wall and see what sticks. This can be the same for any planning, but especially something that works with a series. I've found some of my best ideas by talking things through with a friend and just letting my ideas lead me. It doesn't always work, and you don't always end up perfect on the first try, but it's something that's worth giving a go. You never know, you might find your answer and then some!

So those are my five tips for planning a series. As I said, the Dying Thoughts series wasn't one that had an over reaching arc, but the Lights Out trilogy, the Invisible series and Cramping Chronicles, all do, and it's something that you learn as you do. So go forth and plan your series, have fun and remember to keep writing!


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