Crafting a Series

In one of my first blogs I wrote that I enjoyed writing a fantasy novel that was stand-alone. The story was completely encapsulated. In Ahvarra the mystery at the center of the story is resolved, and each of the characters finds resolution. I have always been fond of Guy Gavriel Kay’s works, because most of his works are also stand-alone.

However.

Several of the first handful of reviews on Amazon indicated liking the world I’d created so much that they hope for sequels that will explore more of it. And so I indulged my imagination and started down the path of what that would mean. Should I write a direct sequel? What would the conflict be? Which of the key characters would it involve? Would it require going back through the Heart again?

And I came to various conclusions. The first is that, yes, the world on the other side of the Heart can support additional stories. The second is that, no, those stories do not require all the same characters. 

What I have, therefore, is an idea that will span four books. The first, obviously, was Ahvarra. I am busy writing the second, which will not involve characters that were in Ahvarra. The third book won’t involve characters from the first two either. But, like Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere universe, the world-building, magic systems and terminology inherent in Ahvarra will stretch across the series. The fourth book will, in my mind, bring characters from the first three together for one epic conclusion. 

So, three separate books, separate stories, separate characters, all in the same world with that world’s rules. With a fourth that brings matters to a head, as it were. 

One of the more interesting trends these days is major writers using self-publishing to bridge major books in their series via novellas. Brian McClellan is doing this successfully with the Powder Mage series and Patrick Rothfuss has also gotten into the mix with a novella in the Kingkiller Chronicles. Which of course gets my imagination flowing. Because certainly how each of the story threads–and the characters who will retain importance in the world–will need to get from their point of origin to where book four finds them, may be of interest to fans. And so telling those stories might also involve novellas. 

For those of you who think “ugh, another series” fret not. Like Ahvarra, book two will be stand-alone. And so will book three. You could read them by themselves and be entertained. Book four will likely be a challenge, as familiar faces from the first three will return. 

All in all it’s been a fun challenge over the past couple of months, seeing how readers have responded positively to Ahvarra and setting my imagination to how to craft more stories from its world. I hope each of the books entertains the readers as much as imagining them–and writing them–entertains me.

Making and/or Finding Time To Write – It’s Called Prioritizing

Some of the best novels ever imagined were never written. The would-be author had a fantastic idea, a vivid set of characters, interactions, conflicts, worlds to explore … and the would-be author never found the time to write. One of the keys to writing, of course, is the actual writing. Yes, interaction is key, living is key. People who tend to closet themselves in a, well, closet, don’t tend to write the most believable characters nor do they write stories most of us can relate to. Why? Because they aren’t out there interacting with the rest of the human race to determine what interests us.

And so the challenge, of course, is finding the time or making the time. Almost every author you run across will tell you this simple recipe: “Write.” They will follow that up with “Write write write write write write” because, quite simply, to get from that blank page staring at you to the last period on the last page takes quite a bit of energy. You can do it, but it’s going to be like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. There’s a transformation that takes place when the images in your head become words on a page, and when those words begin to flow of their own volition and begin to create new images you hadn’t originally imagined, it’s something that will transform you. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first shot at it or your nth, the process begins anew each time you start with that blank page one.

One of the biggest challenges is time. The magic words will be “find the time to write” or “make the time to write.” While we could work with Neil deGrasse Tyson to try and slow the Earth’s rotation to add a couple hours to each day, what this boils down to is “stop doing something else you’re doing and write instead.” Because, let’s face it, life is busy.

For instance: I have a job. A full-time-get-up-at-6:30-don’t-get-home-til-after-5pm job. And it can be exhausting. I’ve had days where I’ll have 14 or 15 meetings strung together like Christmas lights: a green meeting where everything is good followed by a red one where everything is in the ditch. I also have a renewed interest in getting back into shape. I have two teenage boys who regularly need homework attention. We like to have dinner together. We like to do all sorts of things together. My wife and I like to watch a little TV to unwind before we go to bed.

By the time Friday morning’s alarm wakes me, I’m pretty much toast.

So, let’s pull out the recipe book and make some time. Or don our Indiana Jones hat and whip and find some.

Bottom line: there’s no magic pill to take to find or make time. There’s no amount of preaching a writer can do to you or you can do to yourself to “just write.” It comes down to prioritizing. 

Do you want to write?

Then do less of something else. 

There are writers who carve out the same schedule every week to write. Three hours every Saturday morning is writing time. That won’t work for everyone, because there will be times when you stare at the screen for three hours and it stares back. Not everyone can schedule inspiration. But you do need to determine what works best for you and then stick to it. 

Trust me: getting your novel written is just step one. You need to get feedback on it. You need to incorporate feedback. There will be moments when you’ll want to drag the entire thing to the trash bin, hit the empty button and go watch Game of Thrones. There might be tears. There will undoubtedly be arguments. 

But what this comes down to is you. Not making time, but making the decision to write. I can promise you this: the journey from blank page to last period is a daunting one, a quest that will push you, break you, build you back up again, and ultimately fulfill you. But only you can make that journey. 

If you prioritize it as part of your life.

Now, I could write tonight… but I’m going to watch Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals with my family. And that’s my decision, my choice on how to prioritize my time tonight.