Alas, friends, it’s been another week of writing and not much else. So, let’s fill space this week with a little shop talk about writing — specifically, about writing a series.
There are two big things I learned in writing Action Figures and The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot, the first of which is: have a plan. It doesn’t have to be a tight, intricately detailed plan, but you should know where the series is going in general, what story points you need to hit in building toward your goal (i.e., the final book in the series), how you want your cast to develop and grow, etc. A game plan helps keep you focused so your series doesn’t turn into a meandering mess that collapses in on itself (e.g., The X-Files).
As a writer, I am generally what’s known as a “pantser,” which means I tend to write by the seat of my pants. I don’t meticulously plot out my stories and I certainly don’t write detailed outline prior to starting a project. God, no. That would drain all the fun out of it for me and make it too much like work. But I do know where each series is going overall. What I don’t always know is exactly how I’m going to get there.
That brings me to my second rule, which is be flexible. The simple fact is, as you work on your series, you might discover that elements that sounded great in the planning stages aren’t working out. It happens. So, do you forge ahead in sticking with your plan even though it might compromise the story and characters? Or do you adapt and amend the plan, and end up with a series that isn’t quite what you had in mind but works just as well, perhaps even better?
If you remember the TV series Fringe, you’ll remember the big reveal at the end of season one that (spoiler alert, even though the series is nearly 25 years old) there was a parallel Earth. The show’s producers hadn’t intended to reveal that twist until much later in the series, but then they realized dragging that story point out dragged the whole narrative down with it. By pulling that trigger earlier in the series, they gave the narrative new energy and opened up new directions to explore.
The big risk with pantsing a series is in wrapping it all up at the end. When you make things up as a you go, you end up with a lot of smaller story threads that need to be tied off somehow, and do so in a logical, satisfying way. Leave them dangling and/or make the knot too messy and you tip the reader off that you were making it up as you went. Never let them see the magic.
Action Figures – Issue Two: Black Magic Women: Work on the audiobook edition has begun, with Bethany Boles returning as narrator.
Action Figures – Issue Eleven: Draft one underway. Scheduled for a winter/spring 2022 release.
The Adventures of Strongarm & Lightfoot – Elfish Motives: Work has begun on the audiobook edition. Tentatively set for a 2022 release.
APPEARANCES & EVENTS
- None scheduled.
The New England Speculative Writers group has a new preview book for newsletter subscribers. Pick it up and read the opening chapters to Well-Behaved Women – Awakening and other stories.
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