Got lost in my own plan - anyone got a map?

HeadHurty

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Hey, so I’ve started, then deleted this thread, maybe ten times over the last few days. I don’t know how to accurately describe where I’m stuck. But I am. It’s a multi-book, world-building, planning issue and I’ve got myself all tied up.

My issue, the best I can describe it, is that I had a plan for 5 books mythology style fantasy adventure. Then I hit a bit of a creativity wall between the drafts for 4/5 so I diverted attention to a spin-off passion project. Fine.
The problem is, that boosted my creativity too much it seems. Now I have one story drafted and another two outlined, that all feed back into my original plan.

So what have I got? Cut-room floor fodder? A nice bit of drafted research that informs the final story? Separate the bits off and release random spin-offs? A 6th book that ties multi-points of view together?

Gah!
 

Woollybear

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I only have one map and it might not be much use. The four-point compass rose says: "Keep writing" and "Writing is rewriting" and "A project is never finished it is simply abandoned" and "Wine."

The rest of the map is blank.

Sorry I can't be more help....
 
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paflinn

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Headhurty, I feel your pain. I started with one book that got over 100k. Then I decided to spit into a 5-novella series. Then I thought, why do five novellas when I can do three full-sized books? Then, I realized where I split them, the middle book is 30k larger than the first book and the third book even smaller than the first. But where I split it was logical, if I went deeper into the second book it would seriously slow the momentum which is my favorite part of book 2.
So I started padding the first book and now realize half of that first book is boring--yet necessary--background. I've got to re-write it to sound less like info dump and to stand up to the excitement of the second and third parts. I don't even mind that the third book is shorter because it's wrapping everything up. But if no one likes my first book they'll never make it to the third.

Time to start cutting...again.
 

HeadHurty

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I only have one map and it might not be much use. The four-point compass rose says: "Keep writing" and "Writing is rewriting" and "A project is never finished it is simply abandoned" and "Wine."

The rest of the map is blank.

Sorry I can't be more help....
Thank you. Sometimes it’s nice just to have a place to say these things out loud.
Have wine already (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere)
 
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rjlp53

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I've got some advice, though it might not be what you want to hear. If you write strictly for your own pleasure or are self-publishing, then I'd say just do whatever you want. Tie in those extra stories. Write a sixth book. It's your passion project and no one but you knows the right thing to do.

However, if you want to be traditionally published, I'd say stop where you are right now and focus only on the first story in your series.

I'm a veteran of several full-length projects, each of which started with planned follow-ups or series. None of them ever went anywhere because the initial wasn't good enough to get traditionally published. If you want to traditionally publish a series like yours, you can basically only query with the first novel since the sequels are not publishable without the first. For that reason, many people with planned trilogies or series just write the first and plan the rest and then see where publishing takes them. If you can get your first book published, then awesome, you get the joy of writing the rest. If you can't, then you don't have to write the rest since they won't be published anyway.

If you've written four or five novels in the same series, it seems likely the self-editing hasn't been good enough on any of them for them to be traditionally published, since you are likely focused so much on storytelling and not enough on the craft because your creative fires are burning so hot. Shifting focus back to the first book and really, really honing it down to as near perfection as possible will teach you much more than writing an extended series. It will teach you how to trim the words and get the most out of each scene. It will teach you how to find your unique voice in your prose. It will teach you how to really look at your characters and their motivations and making sure everything is logical and rational as possible. Sooo much of getting a good novel is in the revisions, which are hard and make you want to focus on other projects or stories that seem easier. These other projects aren't easier. They just look that way from the outside until you start them, and if you are constantly moving to the next novel in the series your writing will suffer.

Once you've got book 1 to the point where you think it's as good as it can be (maybe you already do!) get some beta readers and find out how wrong you are (this happens to all of us). Then, take their feedback and improve on the story, which very likely changes your plans for the sequels. Beta readers point out all kinds of things we miss and make us find new and creative ways to solve our problems or the problems our characters face.

Once you're done with a round of betas, you can update your draft for book 1, and then maybe do another beta round or start querying. At that point, though, you will kind of know how well your story is working and be able to plan for the sequels, which would hopefully be published after the debut.

tl;dr: I'd say pull back from writing new stories in the same series and focus on only the book you want to be published first. This will not only improve your writing, but in the process will likely uncover things you need to change for the sequels anyway.
 

HeadHurty

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Headhurty, I feel your pain. I started with one book that got over 100k. Then I decided to spit into a 5-novella series. Then I thought, why do five novellas when I can do three full-sized books? Then, I realized where I split them, the middle book is 30k larger than the first book and the third book even smaller than the first. But where I split it was logical, if I went deeper into the second book it would seriously slow the momentum which is my favorite part of book 2.
So I started padding the first book and now realize half of that first book is boring--yet necessary--background. I've got to re-write it to sound less like info dump and to stand up to the excitement of the second and third parts. I don't even mind that the third book is shorter because it's wrapping everything up. But if no one likes my first book they'll never make it to the third.

Time to start cutting...again.
Oh isn’t it just a nightmare! I tried really hard with the balancing of the weight of the book thing. My first is more weighty than my others but just makes sense to be that way.
It’s hard isn’t it? Is this one of those ‘insta-perfect’ things? Where it’s easy to look at others, at the pros, and assume we should be like them and what we have isn’t good enough?
I, too, contemplated shifting the books. But the opposite of your way. Three into one and making ‘parts’ but then what have I got now?
*bangs head on desk*
 

LuciusW

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I'm sorry, but I can't help myself. The content of the OP. Your name... Does your head hurty?
 

HeadHurty

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I've got some advice, though it might not be what you want to hear. If you write strictly for your own pleasure or are self-publishing, then I'd say just do whatever you want. Tie in those extra stories. Write a sixth book. It's your passion project and no one but you knows the right thing to do.

However, if you want to be traditionally published, I'd say stop where you are right now and focus only on the first story in your series.

I'm a veteran of several full-length projects, each of which started with planned follow-ups or series. None of them ever went anywhere because the initial wasn't good enough to get traditionally published. If you want to traditionally publish a series like yours, you can basically only query with the first novel since the sequels are not publishable without the first. For that reason, many people with planned trilogies or series just write the first and plan the rest and then see where publishing takes them. If you can get your first book published, then awesome, you get the joy of writing the rest. If you can't, then you don't have to write the rest since they won't be published anyway.

If you've written four or five novels in the same series, it seems likely the self-editing hasn't been good enough on any of them for them to be traditionally published, since you are likely focused so much on storytelling and not enough on the craft because your creative fires are burning so hot. Shifting focus back to the first book and really, really honing it down to as near perfection as possible will teach you much more than writing an extended series. It will teach you how to trim the words and get the most out of each scene. It will teach you how to find your unique voice in your prose. It will teach you how to really look at your characters and their motivations and making sure everything is logical and rational as possible. Sooo much of getting a good novel is in the revisions, which are hard and make you want to focus on other projects or stories that seem easier. These other projects aren't easier. They just look that way from the outside until you start them, and if you are constantly moving to the next novel in the series your writing will suffer.

Once you've got book 1 to the point where you think it's as good as it can be (maybe you already do!) get some beta readers and find out how wrong you are (this happens to all of us). Then, take their feedback and improve on the story, which very likely changes your plans for the sequels. Beta readers point out all kinds of things we miss and make us find new and creative ways to solve our problems or the problems our characters face.

Once you're done with a round of betas, you can update your draft for book 1, and then maybe do another beta round or start querying. At that point, though, you will kind of know how well your story is working and be able to plan for the sequels, which would hopefully be published after the debut.

tl;dr: I'd say pull back from writing new stories in the same series and focus on only the book you want to be published first. This will not only improve your writing, but in the process will likely uncover things you need to change for the sequels anyway.
That’s truly lovely feedback, thank you.
I’m honestly not sure on what my plans are for it, I’m learning as I go.
I’m new to writing and only originally intended it as a personal activity, not a serious activity, I just wanted to see the idea in my head turn into something real. The publishing route is an option but not any time soon, I’m not experienced enough - you’re more than right on the editing though, I went back only recently and changed loads of stuff . It’s definitely a WIP and I’m considering self-publishing just as a way of gauging reader feedback.
 

rjlp53

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That’s truly lovely feedback, thank you.
I’m honestly not sure on what my plans are for it, I’m learning as I go.
I’m new to writing and only originally intended it as a personal activity, not a serious activity, I just wanted to see the idea in my head turn into something real. The publishing route is an option but not any time soon, I’m not experienced enough - you’re more than right on the editing though, I went back only recently and changed loads of stuff . It’s definitely a WIP and I’m considering self-publishing just as a way of gauging reader feedback.
One thing about self-publishing, you can't unpublish something once it's out there, and you wouldn't get any traction with an agent or publishing company if you've already published the story you want their help with. Even if the first one is published and is successful, it's hard to get an agent on a second or third story in a series.

So, if you want to gauge reader interest and get their feedback, I'd recommend finding beta readers instead. That protects your ability to find an agent if your project is really good and also gives better feedback than a bunch of short reviews on Amazon would. Good luck with whatever route you take!
 

HeadHurty

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One thing about self-publishing, you can't unpublish something once it's out there, and you wouldn't get any traction with an agent or publishing company if you've already published the story you want their help with. Even if the first one is published and is successful, it's hard to get an agent on a second or third story in a series.

So, if you want to gauge reader interest and get their feedback, I'd recommend finding beta readers instead. That protects your ability to find an agent if your project is really good and also gives better feedback than a bunch of short reviews on Amazon would. Good luck with whatever route you take!
Oh that’s interesting to know - thank you. It’s a bit of a minefield, so any help navigating is appreciated :)
I’ll go back over everything and see how my new outline genuinely ties in and spend the summer editing to the point a beta reader might be interested.
 

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Oh I know the feeling of getting lost in the weeds of world-building. You can keep going in this direction if you want to:
  1. Make a ttrpg setting that you'll let other people run around in and have their own adventures
  2. The "story" IS the world building, and this is a speculative bio project, and you just make little vignettes of natural scenes
But if you want actual stories, with concrete beginnings and ends, you have to stop at some point and start writing. There will be world building things that you'll have to create AS you write the story, but it has to exist to support the story. Back in Ye Olden Dayse, you could write a fantasy that had the most cookie-cutter characters and plot but people would read it because the setting was interesting. But it's not like that anymore.

So for in the history of your world, what was a critical event that really shaped things? What has a good, human element that would be interesting for readers to follow? Like for my setting, it's when there was a large shift in power after a magical natural disaster. But the first book is focused on specific characters and their motivations/struggles. Yes, there are events that happened before this that are also important, but having a book about a war and then jumping ahead 5,000 years is a little silly, especially since most of the characters aren't around anymore.

Like think about Game of Thrones. There is a TON of history in the world that is relevant to what's going on, but what we see in the actual books is this one specific, interesting conflict (this batch of guys fighting for the iron throne). The history comes up as it's relevant, but the focus is on the present. Once you get that big, THEN you can write all the prequel stuff that you want lol
 
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HeadHurty

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Oh I know the feeling of getting lost in the weeds of world-building. You can keep going in this direction if you want to:
  1. Make a ttrpg setting that you'll let other people run around in and have their own adventures
  2. The "story" IS the world building, and this is a speculative bio project, and you just make little vignettes of natural scenes
But if you want actual stories, with concrete beginnings and ends, you have to stop at some point and start writing. There will be world building things that you'll have to create AS you write the story, but it has to exist to support the story. Back in Ye Olden Dayse, you could write a fantasy that had the most cookie-cutter characters and plot but people would read it because the setting was interesting. But it's not like that anymore.

So for in the history of your world, what was a critical event that really shaped things? What has a good, human element that would be interesting for readers to follow? Like for my setting, it's when there was a large shift in power after a magical natural disaster. But the first book is focused on specific characters and their motivations/struggles. Yes, there are events that happened before this that are also important, but having a book about a war and then jumping ahead 5,000 years is a little silly, especially since most of the characters aren't around anymore.

Like think about Game of Thrones. There is a TON of history in the world that is relevant to what's going on, but what we see in the actual books is this one specific, interesting conflict (this batch of guys fighting for the iron throne). The history comes up as it's relevant, but the focus is on the present. Once you get that big, THEN you can write all the prequel stuff that you want lol
Yeah, this. Thanks for saying it out loud.
I have similar to how you outlined yours, I think I just fell down the rabbit hole of backstories because I’m a bit stumped on how exactly to end it all. In a big war, with a big bomb, is the current mood.
 

HeadHurty

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  1. “Make a ttrpg setting that you'll let other people run around in and have their own adventures”
Thinking about this - I’m the one running about having fun in it. I’ve lost all control and my world is infinitely more inviting than reality…