Happy (almost) new year!
This year, my “resolution” is finally to write a series.
Just putting this down into words makes my heart race and my guts churn, and I want to drive a stake through my forehead because my brain itches (yes, I completely understand the concept of trepanning now, but ew). We never overcome irrational fears that we don’t face head-on (or so I’ve been told). I figured out, however, after about a week of stone-dead stillness and rising panic whenever I sat down to start writing, that this issue I have with writing a series is planning.
When I do a search on the internet for the best way to craft a series, the very first thing mentioned is “planning”…which to a “pantser” (I need to come up with a better word for that, makes me think of getting a wedgie) is like a Jackson Pollock paint-by-number.
To meet me, or know me on any personal level, the dilemma seems obvious. I appear to be a pretty unorganized person. My brain goes off on grand adventures without me, and I do ridiculous things like go to work without brushing my hair (seriously, last week I still had the elastic tie in that I use when I scrub my face), and sometimes wondering if I’ve remembered to put all of my clothes on. I won’t lock my house or car without having the key in my hand and my eyeballs staring at said key. Not because I have locked myself out before (knock on wood), but because I know I can be so absent-minded that it’s highly likely I will.
However, my “day job” (the one paying the bills right now ((ohgodohgodohgod)) is one that depends on quite a bit of organization. I need to know what version of software, which designs, what parts and documentation are in which train running in certain areas of the world at any given time. It’s a lot of hours spent chained to a desk and in meetings trying to make sure other people are doing their jobs and have the proof to back it up. Having to remain several steps ahead, it seems that I should be a natural at writing outlines, and that’s the problem: outlines are planning, planning is structure, and structure is what I do at work. My job is the opposite of creative.
So when I tried to map out the series for Spiretown: Second Edition, I found that what I was doing was over-planning. I had a series beginning, middle, and end, then several stories I wanted to develop: each with their own beginnings, middles, and ends that all worked together under the umbrella of the main arc. I tried using the Hero’s Journey Template (because it seems to be the most detailed, and apparently when I torture myself, I want to do it as thoroughly as possible). I was planning to a level of such quantum proportions, that I was trying to see everything at the same time, yet seeing nothing but static. It was this giant structure mirrored in each little interior structure that somehow all fit together in a seamless way. It was like trying to rebuild a window from slivers of broken glass.
One thing I love about writing is the element of “what happens next?” I rarely have a clue, because the moment I get a clue, it seems too obvious and I need to surprise myself with something more complex. Usually, that’s the characters themselves running off with their own agendas and me trying to keep up. (Sometimes they run so far that they end up in a different story completely).
So having failed to outline, I fired up the PS4, killed some monsters, and tried not to hate myself for pissing away even more of my limited writing time (I’ve found the worst way to do this is while suffering from PMS and gorging oneself on leftover Christmas cookies… I did manage to score a pretty rare pet in Diablo III—ROS, however, so it wasn’t a total waste). I also realized that planning is just not for me. I can write the stories, and still make sure they all converge into a satisfying resolution, without having to know precisely what that resolution might be.
After coming to this very obvious conclusion, I managed to put down about 4k words in one day, and I’m already halfway there again today. My Scrivener file looks like something Mercury Fie would put together—it’s a patchwork of crazy. There are folders where each document within is actually a chapter of a story for several sets of characters (who keep building and wanting their own plots) and I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between them, making new ones, and basically just letting them carry me off as they normally do. My goal is that the stories themselves will be my guide.
Maybe when I’m done they’ll be rubbish, or maybe not. Like Jackson Pollock, sometimes you have to make a huge mess to create something cool (I do promise, however, for those of you taking trains and riding subways, I’ll keep planning at work).
And by the way, thank you all for reading my books and keeping in touch. I love sharing my words and worlds with you and nothing makes me happier than being invited into your lives for a little while. 🙂
Happy 2018! I hope this year brings many wonderful things to all of you (and a few new stories from me)!