Outlining the Plot and Series

by Emerald
(Waterloo, Ontario)

Hi Glen!

I have a quick question regarding outlining my novel. I want to write a trilogy, and I have the basics down such as the characters' goals, their personality progression, the ending of each book, and the ending as a whole series in mind.

However, I was wondering whether or not I should plan one book in detail, and then write, or should I plan the whole series in detail and then write one book after the next?

I'm asking this because I'm afraid I will meet writers block if I don't plan the entire series. On the other hand, if I plan the whole series seems extremely overwhelming.

Thanks once again,

A troubled writer

Answer: There are two separate considerations you have to make here.

First, the purpose of planning is to make you feel empowered -- to feel like you have a solid grasp on the story and can plunge right in and start writing, without the worry that you don't know where you are going. The trick is to reach that stage, but also acknowledge when you've reached it so you don't get lost in the planning itself.

The amount of planning you should do varies with each writer and each project. Sometimes it works to plan until you feel inspired to write, then write until you get stuck, then go back to planning until you feel excited about the story again, etc.

Planning and writing
can inform each other. You will discover things in writing that you didn't plan, while planning can keep the writing from going too far off track.

The other consideration is practical. First novels often don't sell. So why spend months, if not years, planning additional books in the series in extensive detail?

Of course, planning a series is a learning experience. But if the first book doesn't sell, none of the sequels will either. So that's a lot of time that could have been spent planning or writing something more marketable than a sequel to an unsold manuscript.

That said, it's good to have the idea of a trilogy in mind and to have some outline of the entire series. If the first book does sell, and sell well, there's a chance the publisher will ask you to turn it into a series, and if your character's story is completely told in the first book, you might be stumped what to do with him/her in a sequel. (This is why some sequels are not as good as the first book of the series.)

So by all means spend a few hours sketching out a plot arc to cover the entire series, but don't spend months of work outlining the sequels in great detail. Focus on making the first book as good as you can. And while you're shopping the first book around, perhaps work on a completely different story.

Best of luck.

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Thanks so much!
by: Emerald

Thank you so, so much once again! This response cleared up many things and really helped me a lot. Thanks once again!

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