I’ve been hard at work for approximately ten months now developing a children’s chapter book series called The Elsie Jones Adventures. I’m having a blast writing them, and coming up with the concepts for each individual book, however it is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, because everything in the series has to be cohesive. It’s a fifteen book series and each book is a stand alone (except for maybe the 15th), but each book also pushes the overall plot line forward for the series.
While I’ve been writing this series I’ve been continuing and completing a number of long running series of books. Most of these series are in the save vein, where they have stand alone books, but each volume pushes the larger story farther towards the completion of the series.
This is what’s scary, hard and, oddly enough, rewarding in both process of reading and writing a large series: Making sure that the whole story makes sense, and you eliminate continuity errors.
The first few books don’t seem to be that much of an issue because you can keep adding plot points, but as the series progresses, you need to begin to close the loopholes (creators of LOST didn’t understand this simple point).
So I’ve thought a lot of the process of all this over the past few years, and if anyone has any feedback regarding it, it would be fun to talk about.
My process has evolved over the past year, much more than it has in the ten years previous.
When I first started writing I would just sit down and let the story take over. This is a big argument within the writer community because nearly half of all writers do it this way, where the other half are outliners and planners. I thought I could be a free story writer, where the story and the characters told me where the story was going and the story would tell itself, however I have found over time that I get lost in the middle of the story and the characters and the plot lose their way.
I have become a planner because of this, and developing Elsie Jones, I’ve become a planner more and more.
The biggest contention to outlining that I’ve heard (and said) is that free writers feel as though they are trapped within the outline. However almost all writers know how the story begins, maybe a few plot points int he middle, and then how the story ends. This is nearly the same as outlining.
Just because you’ve created an outline doesn’t mean that you cant change it if the character comes alive and the outline no longer makes sense. You still will probably have the same ending, but the path to the ending is fluid (it’s like Game of Thrones. Weiss and Benioff don’t know the path Martin is going to take to get to the end, but they know the end. So the books and the show will diverge, more than likely from this point out, but they will end the same way). Then through subsequent drafts you can hone the story, tighten it up into a beautiful little story. If you consider yourself a free writer, try this. Sit down and have a brainstorm session and write it down. I even put in dialog and description of the events which are particularly vivid to me. Then the first draft can be about the construction of the book and developing the voice and life of the character instead of worrying about the path of the book.
The reason this is so particularly on my mind now is I’m in the middle of book 9 of The Elsie Jones Adventures (Take a look at my books page of this blog for more info) and I have quite a few plot points that I need to bring back together to finish up the story. I’ve had to go one step beyond the mere outlining and create diagrams and lists and character sketches. I’ve had to do this because if I just free wrote the rest of the books, I would leave a bunch of hanging loose ends and have plot points which didn’t make sense.
So I wonder at what other people think. I wonder how other people write. Lets start a dialog and improve the writing in the world.