Planning A Series VI

Sometimes things work.

Sometimes they don’t.

Remember that single index card I wrote out? The one that was the great breakthrough? The one that would lead the way for the other hundreds of index cards I was going to write?

It didn’t happen.

That one index card was the only one I wrote.

My poor, sad, lonely index card.
My poor, sad, lonely index card.

A few days after I wrote it, I gave up on deluding myself. I sat down with my laptop, opened a blank document in Pages, and put numbered headings in bold down the left hand side of the page, one for each book in the series.

1. Whitu

2. Chorus

3. Lunacy

And so on

Then I broke out the bullet points. I said to myself, okay, each bullet point is one index card. And I started typing.

1. Whitu

  • When Nathan Walker’s wallet is stolen, he gives chase and meets a street thief named Nita.
  • And so on

And it’s working. I’m making progress. I have over a thousand words in bullet points. It’s nowhere near finished: at a rough estimate I’d say the finished list will be anywhere between ten and twenty thousand words. The more words, the better. It’s essentially a rough outline of every single book in my series, and it has to note every subplot and how they progress over however-many-books-they’re-in, where the foreshadowing is for certain events and how much is needed at different times, what my characters are going through and what they’re feeling from what they went through in the last book, and so on and so forth etc etc ad nauseam.

Some of these points literally consist of three words.

  • Nate meets Celia.

And some of them consist of entire (and very long) paragraphs filling in the backstory of a fairly minor character.

  • Blah blah blah backstory blah backstory blah character motivation blah backstory blah history blah backstory.

And that’s ok. Because it works for me.

So. My advice: find out what works for you. Try different methods. Give index cards a shot. Try handwriting notes. Try typing out bullet points. Try drawing diagrams of plot arcs and filling them in. And if one method doesn’t work for you, try something else. Even if it does work for you, try something else, and if the Something Else doesn’t work better, go back to the method that did work for you.

In the end, it’s all about finding what works for you. 

“But Rowling used a hand-drawn spreadsheet!”

If that works for you, fine. But remember: You’re not Rowling, and your book isn’t Order of the Phoenix.

“But Ted Dekker does it this way!”

Again: if it works for you, fine. But you’re not Ted. You’re you. You have to do it your way.

“But – !”

No. Stop.

I repeat: You are not another author. You are you. Your writing is yours and yours alone. Your plots, your characters, your books will be yours and yours alone.

Find what works for you.

Use it.

And then tell me, so I can give it a go and see if it works better than doing it my way.


4 thoughts on “Planning A Series VI

  1. I am not writing a huge series like you are, of course, but I definitely understand the dilemma of finding a way to plan that works for you. I love using Scrivener’s cork board feature. I love to write on and move around all the digital note cards on the screen.


    1. I love Scrivener as a writing and compiling tool (even if compiling sometimes frustrates me to no end), and I love that I can keep everything in one place – drafts, extra scenes, character notes, and so on. But for the actual planning of a book… it’s just not quite what I’m after. I’m glad it works for you, though. 🙂


  2. Sometimes it’s not even what works for you but what works for that particular story/series. I have written different types of outlines for different types of stories. I personally have used five different styles for my works, and I wrote a blog post with examples and details about why they worked for me. It’s possible some may work for you as well. 🙂


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