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.

5 thoughts on “Nothing Is Set In Stone

  1. This was such a big revelation. I was so afraid to plot out too much for fear I couldn’t change it. I know it was irrational, but there it is. I think maybe we all learned something on this trip, partly just by talking things out. It’s so good for authors to be able to spend time with each other!

  2. It’s only natural for a super-powered planner like you to concentrate on the larger story. Certainly would make it easier to write the smaller parts, but if it gets so frustrating that nothing is coming out, what’s the point?

    I think the Mirus world has endless possibilities for stories that don’t have to be woven into the metaplot. Ransom and Isla can have an adventure without it crossing paths with the metaplot. Other stories might jump out at you with how well they work with the metaplot. And I have a feeling the more stories you write more connections with other ones you’ll make without even knowing it. The kind of stuff your fans will point out and, of course, you’ll totally agree with how well you planned all this stuff out.

  3. I remember the first series I plotted how terrifying it was that I would plot myself into a corner, so I know just where you’re coming from. But like you I realized that I can’t think like that and if I do end up closing a door, there’s always another window open to let the idea through. With a series, there are infinite ways to bring something about. 🙂

  4. I can’t imagine plotting a series. My current WIP is much more intricate than anything I’ve done, and I spent a good while plotting before I started writing. I’ve still had to go back after act 1 and address some stuff. Plotting a series would be over my head, lol. But I think it’s great you had the revelation that it really is about the characters and remembered why you loved them so much. That’s what writing is all about:)

  5. Have to get it “Right”, oh my god do I feel your pain on that one. I’ve been stalled on a project for months, written over 100k on it, and finally said “enough” and stopped worrying about being right and just letting the story lead itself. And now progress (much to the relief of my crit group leader).

    All the best, Kait. Thanks for sharing this.

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