PLANNING A SERIES
Over the years I've talked about planning a series (piece found here) but I thought I would touch on it again because my process has changed since then in some ways, in others it hasn't, but new year and all, maybe there are people out there wondering about this and while I'm not the best person to ask about planning overall, I do know something about the planning of a series.
Quick recap here, I'm an indie author with eighteen books published, eight of them a complete series, two of them part of a trilogy and one the start of another series. I have some experience when it comes to planning the series before you start writing, and I also have some pitfalls to avoid. I generally fall into the camp of a plantser which is the middle ground between a hardcore planner and a complete pantser. I've always written in this way and it's part of the process that works for me.
So what is there to know about planning a series? Is it worth the work? Especially, if like me, you're more plantser than planner. Glad you asked, I'm going to go through some of the pros, the cons and all the little bits in between, and keep an eye out next week as I'll be doing the same with pantsing a series.
PRO #1 YOU CAN SEE YOUR ARCS AS THEY HAPPEN
If you're able to plan out, even just with the bare bones, you're able to see where an arc, be that plot or character, is going to come into play. You can use this plan to have some idea of what needs to happen in book one and onwards. You want your characters to grow and change and you want to be sure that you have enough plot to actually be writing a series, whether that's a duology, trilogy or beyond that into multiple books. Planning gives you a bit of an idea of where you need to be writing towards and how to make sure that every book you write in this series meets that end goal.
CON #1 IT TAKES AWAY SOME OF THE DISCOVERY WHILE WRITING
This is something that may not apply to you if you're someone who doesn't like to not have a solid plan, but if you're like me, it can be that with all the plans in the world, you need to be able to do some discovery writing along the way. On top of that, depending on how extensive your plan is, things can change once you're in the thick of things with your characters. They may have seemed to lean one way, but as you write them you realise that actually, they'd never do this thing, which according to your plan is a key plot point. You then have the choice to redo the plan or go off plan and see where it takes you.
PRO #2 REVISION IS EASIER WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT'S COMING NEXT
This is something I would be remiss to not include. At the end of the day, planning out your series helps both the drafting process and the editing and revisions process. If you're done with one book and find yourself wondering what will come next, you have this plan already plotted out which will allow you to spot where the next book will take you and you can do from there. It means that your first draft is going to be easier to revise, which is never a bad thing.
CON #2 YOU MAY THINK YOU HAVE MORE PLOT THAN YOU DO
I don't know about you, but when I'm writing, I sometimes see a scene as a massive thing, and then I sit down to write it and find actually it wasn't as big a deal as I thought it would be. Because of that, it can skew the planning I've done and make it harder for me to fill up the book. It might be that despite planning it out, I find writing the draft that a trilogy is a duology and a duology could be a standalone. Some things, for me, anyway, aren't all able to be planned and this can bite you in the backside if you've plotted and planned this whole series and find that actually, it's not working for you.
PRO #3 YOU CAN STILL DISCOVERY WRITE WITHIN REASON
This is a big pro for me, because despite what I said above, there is still some leeway that will allow you to discovery write (or pants) parts of the book, the series and all of that. You don't have to make your plan extensive, just enough that you as the writer know what's expected in this book and what can be done to reach that end goal. I'm not someone who plans a lot, but I have planned series and find that I have enough wiggle room to be able to still pants my way through some of the drafting and still get the end result I wanted.
CON #3 SOMETIMES THE ENDING/ARCS/CHARACTERS ETC. CHANGE BEFORE YOU FINISH THE FIRST BOOK
I've touched on this a little bit in the first con, but I thought it needed it's own point as well. At the end of the day, if you are someone who doesn't write to a plan, then you'll know that sometimes plans change. Sometimes this arc you thought would make the most sense doesn't when you sit down to write. Sometimes you're writing to a certain ending and you get there and realise that it doesn't make sense, or it doesn't jive with everything that happened in the whole series. And that sucks, because it means that you have to readjust your plan in revision which can make the whole process all the more hard.
So there we go, those are three pros and three cons for planning a series. I do some planning, as I've said, but I also find that a lot of the time, the advise is to plan and plan only, that you're not valid unless you have an outline, and it's just not true, it's also not the way a lot of writers work, and that's completely okay.
I have been lucky enough that bar the Dying Thoughts series, I write fast enough to finish a series long before it reaches the publishing stages so I can adjust and reassess as I go through revisions and such. This isn't the case for everyone, and because of that, maybe planning your series ahead of time might be a good idea. It really is up to you as the writer to find what works for you!
Any questions? Lemme know in the comments below!
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