I’ve been so busy I haven’t had a chance to write an update in a long time, but rest assured I’m writing every day. I am currently working on a new fantasy series which follows on from my short story, No Escape. A few people asked about writing longer stories in the same setting, but initially I was skeptical because the original story had always intended to be standalone. Then, a conception for Magian the Infinite popped into my head and the story began to take shape. I took various locales and ideas I had in the back of my mind and filled out the world massively.
I gave myself a month to outline the book, a chapter a day. I had tried outlining before and it never really worked for me. I found it too constrictive. The pressure to tick all the ‘boxes’ irritated me, so I decided I’d simply pants the outline, or ‘plants’ if you will. Every chapter had to propel the story, and there had to be a beginning a middle and end. I kept the POV characters down to two.
After a month, I was really happy with the thirty-plus chapter outlines I had produced. Everything folded together pretty well. It worked as a standalone story and yet I could tell there was a lot of story left so I immediately started to work on outlining two sequels.
The outline of the second book was a bit more of a struggle. There were now three POV’s for various reasons. The setting was too open. When anything can happen, it’s harder to get traction on the story. Some of the early chapters were too loose, but the story gelled nicely about halfway through. At the end of the month, I had a full outline of 30-plus chapters finished.
The outline for the third sequel took only a month as well. There were some pacing issues (it moved too fast in places, at least in outline), but I felt it was pretty solid by the time I finished it. But, almost from the beginning, I knew there would be a need for a fourth book. That fourth turned into two.
So, after five months, I had outlines for a five book series. Each outline took 25 hours, give or take. I probably saved time spreading its development out over a month. My sub-conscious had time to mull over each chapter in a way it never would have if I had done it in a more concentrated time span.
Now, the real work had to begin. I started work on the first draft of the first book. I have a lot of other commitments (family, work, etc.) so I set myself a goal of writing at least five hundred words a day. And I stuck to that commitment.
The one rule I set myself was that I would have no ritual, no special time or place or mug for my coffee. If I was going to do this, I couldn’t give myself any excuses not to work. All I needed was either my computer or my phone. I used Scrivener on both so I could always work on the project directly. I found it extremely easy to use my phone as I was already used to reading pretty long novels on it.
Over the next four months, my muse brooked no excuses. Tired? Write the five hundred. Busy day. Write the five hundred. Not inspired. Tough, five hundred. Holidays, five hundred. At times, it might have been convenient to simply waffle five hundred empty words, but my conscience wouldn’t let me. Each day, the progress had to be real.
That’s not to say it was perfect. It was a first draft after all. There were lots of things I was unsatisfied with. But the important thing was I knew how to fix them. There was nothing in there that I feared. I solved any problems of that ilk as I came across them.
The outline worked out pretty well. There was the odd plot point that had to be dropped. For example, it quickly became clear that a letter supposed to be important to the plot couldn’t work, so that was scrapped for something better. Overall, very little strayed from the original outline.
At the end of four months, I had my first draft (63k). It had taken 156 hours. I immediately moved on to the next book. I didn’t even take a day off.
Book 2 felt much tougher. Remember the problems I had with its outline. I really struggled for the first third. The outline for those early chapters quickly went out the window. The subplot fitted together nicely though and by the time I reached the end of the book, I could see pretty well how to fix most of the early issues. Also, even though I felt that I really struggled with it and that it had taken a lot longer to progress, in actuality, the first draft (61k) was finished a week early and took only 115 hours, three quarters of the time the first book took. It’s good to keep track of these things, not as a stick to beat myself with, but as an objective guide to my progress so I don’t have to depend on feelings but hard facts.
I’m about a week ahead of my original schedule for book 3. There’s still a long way to go, but I feel confident.