Nothing Is Set In Stone
Over the weekend, Susan, Lauralynn, and I got into a discussion about this notion that if you put it down on paper, you can’t change it. I think this fear frequently applies to pantsers–the idea that if you outline something, then you can’t deviate from it. I know I felt that way as a pantser and Lauralynn admitted it too.
It also applies to plotters. In my case, it applies to series and trying to plan them. There’s all this pressure to get it RIGHT. Because whatever you write in Book 1 is going to affect what comes down the line and once it’s published, that’s the one thing that IS set in stone. I mean, if you self publish then it’s easy to go back and fix small mistakes, but even we don’t go back and make whole sale changes to plots after the fact. Usually.
Planning out a finite series, like a trilogy (what I’m working on now) is a big mental exercise. I don’t have to know EVERY detail of books 2 and 3 to write book 1, but I need to know all the big stuff so that I can figure out what seeds need to be planted in the first book to set up for what comes after. But even that isn’t too awful. A trilogy can easily be envisioned as one great big story. That’s very much how I’m approaching DOTH and its successors. I know how it ends, which is a major step toward figuring out what comes between.
My Mirus series is different. It’s this big, sprawling thing. It’s an enormous world with endless possibilities. The novellas and short story I’ve written so far didn’t get too far into that big world. They just gave glimpses, hints at what’s to come. There’s nothing written that really limits me or screws up any of those possible plot futures. But when I sat down to try to get into the full length novels, trying to decide on that first story, my brain went haywire. Because I have approximately 865 different ways I could go and each one DOES limit me in some way for which way I can go in the future. I keep running into logic problems, looking at all the potential threads, what needs to be dealt with, trying to figure out how and in what order.
It’s been paralyzing.
I got kind of obsessed with the metaplot and what I wanted to do with the whole series, and because I can’t hold THAT MUCH information in my head at one time, it absolutely became an issue of not being able to see the trees for the forest (I know, that sounds backwards, but I was focused on the high level rather than the specifics).
I realized this weekend that I need to take it back to the personal. The big metaplot stuff will happen either way, but it means nothing outside the lens of characters we care about and how it affects THEM. So instead of worrying about what part of the metaplot will be dealt with in Revelation, I’m thinking again about how this story is about Isla and Ransom. How do they come together? How is the action that happens ABOUT them rather than just them reacting to other, bigger stuff? How is it PERSONAL?
And it’s starting to come clear. I mean, yeah, currently, there are plot holes big enough to drive an 18 wheeler through, but I’m starting to see how it’s THEIR STORY.
I’d forgotten how much I loved these two.
Anyway, all this rambling is to say that you shouldn’t be afraid of changing something. Try it one way, and if it doesn’t work, try another. Test out the road a la Jessica Corra. If the one you pick winds up not being the “right” one, that still doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one. If you learned something from that other road, then the trip and the effort was not wasted.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to try to get Evil Day Job work done while characters are hijacking my brain.