To gear up for release day of book III of my Herezoth trilogy (it’s Friday), yesterday I reflected upon how I had to rewrite the first 100 pages of that novel from scratch, with a new plot line that moved the action seven years forward.
In particular, yesterday I explained four reasons I had to start again. Today, I want to explore the first reason in more detail, in the hopes that other people might be able to learn from my mistakes. What good is experience if you can’t teach from it?
The biggest problem with my first attempt at “The King’s Sons” is that I didn’t have a plan that was developed enough. I didn’t really know what I was writing about.
I ONLY THOUGHT I HAD A PLAN
Sure, I’ve always written as a panster, by the seat of my pants. That’s why I wasn’t concerned when I thought I needed not a trilogy, but a series of at least four books, though I had no idea in the slightest about what could follow book III.
Maybe I should have thought about that. Could I have a trilogy after all? Were four books necessary?
I had a villain with a name and an ethnic background that was significant for slave trade purposes as well as magical ability. But I didn’t realize he would have a history with one or two of the good guys, and I didn’t stop writing when I realized he did. I didn’t stop to figure out the details of that past. I keep charging full speed ahead.
I had heroes whom I knew from previous books, but whom I had to throw into a new and unique situation. I didn’t prepare myself by considering how they might adapt to the situation, and I should have. Some of my gut instincts about how they would react weren’t necessarily the right ones.
I didn’t consider who my secondary characters might be, or even how a character I introduced in the very first scene–a friend of councilor Francie Rafe–might impact the possible development of the plot.
EVEN PANTSERS NEED TO PLAN
I love the freedom of writing as a pantser. I love the thrill of discovery that kind of writing fosters.
I love it so much that, out of fear of planning too much and in a hurry to “get to the good stuff,” I didn’t plan enough. I ended up with 100 pages mostly of background information and scenes that introduced subplots I had no idea what to do with.
I’m not, at all, saying you have to outline. I’m not saying you need a plot before you write. But even pantsers–if they’re hoping to avoid second starts–should have some kind of a developed concept, and they should take a moment to consider, ahead of time, what might be tricky about turning that concept into a plot.
I thought “Bad guy sorcerer kidnapping people from the fishing village where the Magic Council has just opened a school” was a concept. I thought it was a concept because I knew he planned to sell them into slavery. It wasn’t.
I needed to know more about him and his motivation. I should have considered how the heck he planned to pull off his scheme, and how long-term he intended his operation to run. I should have realized that the amount of backstory involved might preclude introducing action scenes early on; I feel that’s important to do as an author of sword and sorcery fantasy.
I didn’t think about any of that. And I had to start over. So please, pantsers, remember this:
You don’t have to plan a lot. But take some time, before you start writing, to make sure you have enough of a plan for you: make sure you know your characters, and that you have a comfortable grasp of what your story is about.
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Also, remember to mark your calendars: to celebrate release day of book III, the reformatted version of book I of my trilogy, The Crimson League, will be free for download May 31 and June 1 (Friday and Saturday). This is a great opportunity, since the story of Herezoth will be complete for all to enjoy now! Don’t miss out.