Books

Pub(lishing) Crawl: Planning a Series

A few weeks ago, I got this question in my inbox:

How would you go about outlining [a trilogy]? Would you outline it as a whole or each book individually?

Awesome question! And obviously, everyone outlines/plans series differently, so I can only tell you how I plan a series. Hopefully that information is still helpful, though.

Step 1: Plan the first book.

If you want to see how I do that, you can read my series on it here. As your planning this book, decide if you can tell the whole story in a single book or if the story will need multiple books.

If you’re starting to realize that you’re definitely going to need multiple books, then it’s time for…

Step 2: How many books will you need?

To answer this question, we first need to figure out why  you even think you’ll need multiple books. What is it about the story that makes you think you can’t contain it in a single volume? Write these reasons down.

So for example, I knew as soon as my WIP Screechers morphed into an epic fantasy series that I would need >1 book to tell the story. These were my reasons why:

  • Lots of POVs (like 8 in the first book alone), each with their own goals/motivations/growth.
  • Lots of places to visit. 2 continents + tons of cities/landscapes in each.
  • At least 3 romances, and romance always takes time to develop (I like slow burns!).
  • Lots of plots/subplots. There’s a missing sister, the screechers threat + origin mystery, an occupying army, a rebellion, a corrupt church, an ancient evil villain, and more. It all intertwines and will clearly take a lot of page space to wrap up…

Clearly I was going to need a ton of pages to cover all that! Now I just needed to decide how many books it might all add up to. To estimate HOW MANY books you’ll need, write down any sort of big events you have in mind. Where do those events naturally feel like happening? Or, where do certain character arcs or romances naturally feel like wrapping up?

While you’re doing that, take a look at other series in your genre. Do they tend to be trilogies? Do they tend to be long, interconnected series (e.g. Game of Thrones) or maybe long, standalone series (e.g. Hercule Poirot)? You can use the comparison titles as a guide for your own story.

Another important reason for looking at comp titles is because you want to make sure your series has structure. Consider how a trilogy follows a 3-act structure on a series-scale (e.g. Star Wars) while longer series tend to have less strict structure (though each book would have a strict structure, of course!). The key, of course, is to follow the well-known rising action scale, but to do it over the course of the whole series as well as in each book.

I ended up estimating 5 books for Screechers, and even though I only have a VERY hazy idea of what happens in those last 2 books (erm, war?), I’ve also read enough fantasy series to naturally know that 5 books feels like the right number to cover the scale of the story.

Step 3: Start a special/file notebook for ideas.

I personally plan my series in the same way I plan an individual book: I write down ideas and snowball from there.

For a series, though, I tend to snowball WHILE I’m drafting the first book. Ideas will thunderbolt in the middle of a sentence, so I’ll scrolls down to my special Scrivener page and write down the idea while I have it. Those ideas might then grow into something more or just get cut as new ideas unfurl, but the point is that I take note of EVERYTHING.

So here’s an example of the ideas that I’ve been snowballing for book 2 in the Screecher series. This is a screencap of my Scrivener file:

Planning a series, 1

Question marks denote I’m not feeling SUPER good about an idea…

This is just the beginning of the ideas for book 2–this list continues on for 6 pages. 🙂 I have a TON of pretty specific ideas and snippets of dialogue since book 2 is in the nearby future in terms of plot, and it’s often on my mind while drafting.

Book 3, on the other hand…

Planning a series, 2

Notice: shorter ideas that are also more vague.

My ideas for book 3 only continue for 2 pages, and they’re definitely skimpier than my book 2 ideas. BUT, they’re still more flushed-out than my books 4 & 5 ideas:

Planning a Series, 3

Notice these are SUPER vague and mostly questions.

As you can see, I don’t really know how everything will connect in book 4, but I DO have a general idea of some big plot points. As I write books 2 and 3, then my  list for books  4 and 5 will get meatier.

And, by the time I finish book 1, I’ll have a very detailed/solid idea of what needs to happen in book 2. In fact, I’ll likely have a full outline all ready to go that will allow me to dive write in to drafting.

So there you have it: that’s how I plan a series! It’s very much like how I plan a book, just on a much larger, more general scale. 🙂

You tell me: how do YOU plan series?

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Book Club Recap & Final Winner!

I am at Dragon*Con right now–probably wondering the booths for a new Star Wars t-shirt–so I’ll keep this brief.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the Something Strange & Deadly book club, both here and on Epic Reads.

You all are truly quite amazing and I love you for it.

On that note, the winner of last week’s giveaway (for a SIGNED copy of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass + signed copies of SS&D or ADS&L) is…

Sara of the Page Sage!

Thank you so much, Sara! And everyone else who joined in and was generally AWESOME throughout August. There are not enough ♥s to express how much I appreciate your interactions.

To everyone who signed up for the participation prize: Because I am out of town for the next two weeks, it will probably take me a bit of time to get you your prizes (A Dawn Most Wicked or an extra scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely). Please bear with me–I haven’t forgotten you!!

If you still need to sign up for a participation prize, you can do that here. 🙂

And, in case you signed up but didn’t have a chance to participate, here’s a recap of all the month’s posts, discussions, and extra content.

Week 1

Discussion questions + historical extras

Listen/watch me read chapter in Something Strange & Deadly

List of discussions across the web

Week 2

Discussion questions + historical extras

Musical playlist that goes along with chapter 19 from Something Strange & Deadly

List of discussions across the web

Week 3

Discussion questions + fun extras

My dream cast for Something Strange & Deadly: the movie (that does not exist…yet)

List of discussions across the web

Week 4

Discussion questions + fun extras

Musical playlist that goes along with the opening scenes in A Darkness Strange & Lovely

List of final discussions across the web

Enjoy! And again, thank you. I’ll be back to the blogosphere in 2 weeks. À bientôt!

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Something Strange & Deadly, Final Discussions!

First off, let me start this post by sharing my Dragon*Con schedule (since that’s where I’ll be all of Labor Day weekend). Sarah J. Maas and I will be chillin’ like villains–and IN COSTUME, no less–while planning out more of our Starkillers Cycle during every free second we get.

Friday:

    • Find me at the SFWA Booth at ~3 PM (near the Artists’ & Comics’ Alley)

    Saturday:

      • 11:30 AM: Advice for Young Writers; Location: A707 – Marriott
      • 8:30 PM: Historical Fiction and Steampunk Themes; Location: A707 – Marriott 

      Sunday:

        • 1:00 PM: Reading with Sarah J. Maas; Location: Vinings – Hyatt
        • 2:30 PM: Autograph Sessions; Location: International Hall South – Marriott

        Now then: ON TO THE BOOK CLUB! (Read more…)

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        A Darkness Strange & Lovely, Opening Playlist

        First off, if you haven’t yet participated in the Epic Reads discussions, I urge you to! They have lots of awesome conversations going on about Something Strange & Deadly. 🙂

        Second, if you missed our FINAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONS (plus the chance to win a signed copy of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas), head here.

        As hard as this might be to believe, Chapter 19 happens to be my favorite chapter in A Darkness Strange & Lovely. Yep, that’s right–it’s the EXACT same chapter number as my favorite in Something Strange & Deadly. And it’s not that I don’t love all the other chapters in book 2, but I had a massive case of writer’s block right before Chapter 19 in ADS&L. After days of pulling out my hair, the light finally burst through the clouds…and chapter 19 all the way to the end just poured out of me.

        So, if you’ve read A Darkness Strange & Lovely or are reading it now, be sure to remember that when you read chapter 19. 😉

        BUT, since I know many of you wonderful readers haven’t yet read A Darkness Strange & Lovely, much less read Chapter 19, I didn’t want to spoil those scenes with a playlist breakdown. Instead, I thought I’d share a playlist that goes with the opening scenes of A Darkness Strange & Lovely.

        Nothing to spoilery here. 😉

        First, I’ll share the actual playlist so you can listen, and then I’ll break down which piece I associate with which pages. AND, I’ve got the first 85 pages of the book embedded below that so you can listen and read along. 🙂 Enjoy!

        (Read more…)

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        Something Strange & Deadly Book Club FINAL WEEK!

        Welcome to the final week in the Something Strange & Deadly book club!

        If you missed the wonderful discussions last week, be sure to check them out here. I’ve listed all the people who shared their responses with me via the participation prize form and week 3 giveaway form. 🙂

        Now, to choose the winner of the third week’s prizes–a signed copy of Goddess Test by Aimée Carter, a signed copy of SS&D or ADS&L, and signed swag…

        Caitlin & Laura!

        Thank you to everyone who participated, and look below for THE FINAL WEEK’S AWESOME PRIZES! 😉

        Oh, and–whether you participate in this book club or not–you’ll definitely want to stop by the Epic Reads discussion board!

        In fact, if you join in (or have already) the Epic Reads discussions, you get an extra entry in this week’s giveaway!! (Read more…)

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        SS&D Book Club, Week 3 Discussions!

        I can’t believe the third awesome week in our book club is already over! Waah! Only one more week to go! And, as you all have every week, you’ve totally impressed me with your answers.

        If you’d still like to join in on the discussions, then that’s TOTALLY cool and I’d love to have you! Just be sure you sign up for it on this form. 🙂

        If you missed my movie casting on Wednesday, make sure to drop by. I’d love to hear who YOU envision playing the various characters.

        This could totally be a movie still from Something Strange & Deadly, the Movie (coming to a theater near you when pigs fly).

        (Read more…)

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        Something Strange & Deadly Movie Cast…if a movie actually existed

        I know I’ve shared my various desired actresses/actors for Something Strange & Deadly, the Movie (coming to a theater near you in the summer of never), but I’m not sure I’ve ever shared my ideal movie cast on my website.

        So, as part of the Something Strange & Deadly Book Club, I thought I’d lay out all the faces I see in my one day award-winning film. 😉

        Something Strange & Deadly, the Movie

        Eleanor Fitt

        "I could keep quiet. But that didn't mean I would." (p. 89 in Something Strange & Deadly)

        Played by Rachel Hurd-Wood. When she has blond hair, of course. But seriously, I love the way this actress can look so feminine and yet so feisty. (Read more…)

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        Something Strange & Deadly Book Club Week 3

        Welcome to week 3 in the Something Strange & Deadly book club!

        If you missed the awesome discussions last week, be sure to check them all out here. I’ve got the full list of people who’ve shared their responses with me via the participation prize form and week 2 giveaway form.

        Now, to choose the winner of the second week’s prizes–a signed copy of Angelfire by Courtney Moulton, Angelfire swag, a signed copy of SS&D or ADS&L, and signed swag…

        Fran at Bella’s Shelf!

        Thank you to everyone who participated, and look below for THIS week’s prizes. 😉

        Oh, and–whether you participate in this book club or not–you’ll definitely want to stop by the Epic Reads discussion board! So far they’ve…

        For those of you just joining this, here’s how the book club works: I have the week’s discussion questions (one for book 1 and one for book 2) below. You have the rest of August to answer these, and you can answer them anywhere on the web (that’s publicly visible, of course).

        If you don’t want to answer this week’s discussion question, that’s fine! You can chime in next week (the final week). One discussion qualifies you for the participation prize. 🙂 What is the prize? A copy of the e-novella A Dawn Most Wicked or an exclusive cut scene from A Darkness Strange and Lovely.

        Of course, if you want to be eligible for this week’s AWESOME giveaway, you’ll want to be sure you answer this week’s discussion question somewhere on the web (publicly visible, of course) before Monday of next week (8/26), when I choose a winner! (Read more…)

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        SS&D Book Club, Week 2 Discussions!

        Happy Friday, world!! Thank you for another  FUN week in our book club discussion! Your answers are all so insightful–I’m honestly thoroughly impressed.

        If you’d still like to join in on the discussions, then that’s TOTALLY cool and I’d love to have you! Just be sure you sign up for it on this form. 🙂

        If you missed my playlist on Wednesday, be sure to check out the music I imagine with the Dynamite Factory scene–assuming your there in the book. If not, you can save the explanation of the playlist for later. 😉

        (Read more…)

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        Something Strange & Deadly, Dynamite Factory Playlist

        I know I’ve said before that Chapter 19 is my favorite in Something Strange & Deadly. It’s not that I don’t love all the other chapters, but I actually wrote chapter 19 first.

        Yep–it’s true! It was originally the opening scene in Something Strange & Deadly, and then the story jumped back to Eleanor waiting on her brother at the train station. OBVIOUSLY, that was a terrible way to open the book, and a wise critique partner quickly pointed out just how terrible.

        But the fact remains that once-upon-a-time, Chapter 19 came first. So it’s special to me.

        And because it’s special to me, I thought I’d share with YOU a playlist that goes along with the entire dynamite factory kerfuffle.

        First, I’ll share the actual playlist so you can listen (and possibly be inspired to write your own stuff…?), and then I’ll break down which piece I associate with which pages. Happy listening!

        (Read more…)

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