I know that it’s been a while since I’ve had a post on writing, so I kind of feel like it’s overdue. Luckily, I ran across something in my own work that sparked an idea for a blog. I know. You’re on the edge of your seat in anticipation! 😉
As most of you know, I’m working on a four book series, the first of which is tentatively titled Fallen. I finished it last August (August 2nd, 2007 at 2:12 a.m., to be exact) and have been slowly working on the sequel, tentatively titled Guardian, since then. While I had an outline for the book before I began writing it, it was very vague–my writing style (so far) works better when I have a generalized, chapter-by-chapter outline to keep me on track and fill in the details as I go. This meant that I knew how the second book was going to end, but i wasn’t precisely sure how the characters were going to get there. This is where the problem came in.
In chapter 12 of Guardian, something happens to one of the characters (yes, I am going to be that ambiguous) that made me realize that there were details–major, key, ultra-super-could-be-amazingly-important details–missing from Fallen. Oh. Crap. Not only has Fallen been complete for months, it’s being shopped with agents right now. (If you are one of the agents with my book, I am completely confident in the story as it is, I have simply found a way to make it even better. Writing is constant revision, right?)
So what can you learn from this? That nothing is finished until it’s published. Nothing. And even published works go through editions which sometimes involve changes. Usually not narrative changes (in fact, that is probably against the rules), but still. I’m getting off track. The other thing that you can learn is how to avoid issues like this. There are a few options:
1– Incredibly detailed, fully realized, character involved outlines of the entire series before you even start writing the first one. This involves research, worldbuilding, character development, and dedication. Time consuming, yes, but worth it in the end because all the prep work has been condensed and completed.
2– Write the entire series before sending the first one out for publication. This may not be feasible if you’re planning a ten book epic thriller fantasy mystery series that spans the length of space and time itself, but if you’re working on a trilogy or a quadrilogy (yes, it is a real word. I looked it up and everything), it’s possible. Even, perhaps, preferable.
3– Don’t write a series. Self-explanatory, I think.
The point is, don’t let it discourage you. I used to be amazed when authors mentioned something in book one and it suddenly became extraordinarily significant in book three, but now I know that they just worked their @$es off to build a world and a story that was as complex as the one we live in today. Writing a book like that is not only possible, but achievable. You just have to be willing to put in the time.