A while ago, I had a brilliant idea for a series. It was going to be a trilogy about forbidden magic and doomed love and social upheaval, as well as banter and sexual tension both resolved and not and a whole plethora of demons. It had a beginning, a middle, an end, as well as separate arcs for each of the books, and all that was left for me to do was to write it. (Which is, as we all know, the hardest part of the whole thing.)
So I sat down and, as I do, I opened Liquid Story Binder, my writing software of choice, and started writing out notes and character and timelines and all that fun stuff. (Probably at some point I’ll write a post about how I plan stories, but for the purposes of this particular installment assume that planning happened and leave it at that.) I even wrote out snippets to test out characters and generally did all the things I usually do before getting down to actually writing. And in the midst of this I came up with three titles that I adored and which fit perfectly with the world and the main character. Only one problem: they didn’t fit with the story I was telling, they fit with the story before that one. Probably a reasonable person would have scrapped them and come up with new ones and left it at that, but I’m not always rational with regard to my writing (or, indeed, much else) and I liked the titles too much to let them go.
The obvious solution, then, would be to use them to write the story they actually described: the backstory/character arc of the main character before this main trilogy. But just two trilogies seems unbalanced, so I went and added on another trilogy after the main one. That’s three separate trilogies as part of one series, or nine books. This is, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, a lot of books. It’s a huge project, especially since I only had actual plots for about four of them. I have gone the “I don’t need to bother with this thing called plot” route before, either because I intend to make the plot up as I go along or because I find the characters fascinating enough to let them loose without anything resembling structure, but those experiments invariably end badly and often fairly quickly. I liked this series. I still do, actually. I didn’t want to sabotage it by throwing the cards into the air and seeing where they fell. (Also I have very little practice editing and don’t like it much and badly planned books always require more editing.)
Because I wanted to write it in order, and because I had very little idea of what the first trilogy would be (or, rather, I knew exactly what it would be, but straight coming of age stories are dull and I didn’t like the idea of one book spanning almost a decade. Some people can pull that off, but I am not one of them, at least not yet), the idea sat in the back of my head and LSB for a while as I worked on other things, or, actually, didn’t work on other things. Essentially I was waiting for things to click, for the part of my brain that writes for me to cough up actual ideas instead of vague what ifs.
The other day, that moment came. I was wasting time on the internet, as I tend to do, and once again went to see Rachel Aaron’s blog, which I discovered last year during NaNoWriMo and which may be the entire reason for me having this blog at all. Anyway, I was reading her new content and thinking about this series and suddenly things started falling into place. During an hour and a half I had more plot breakthroughs than I’d had in the past month. I took advantage of my walk home to talk it out to myself and fix the kinks and fill in the worldbuilding and by the time I walked through my front door I had plots for all nine books (okay, admittedly the last three are still a touch vague, but they’re a heck of a lot more substantial than they were before) and a main series arc that actually made sense as a progression of events. My LSB file for the series practically doubled in size and everything had a lot more depth than it had previously. It was really quite glorious.
In my opinion that breakthrough moment, when everything suddenly just clicks and you know exactly where the story is going to go is the most rewarding part of being a writer. Writing is like playing God, and the breakthrough moment is when you solve world hunger without flooding the planet and starting over. (Though I’ve done my fair share of flooding worlds as well. My idea of editing a terrible first draft is to just start over.) I find this moment much more rewarding than writing the actual end of a draft, which has always seemed incredibly anticlimactic to me. Granted I’ve never gone through the writing process far enough to actually get a properly polished final draft (remember how I said I’m not good at editing?) but finishing first drafts tends to be less exciting than I think it will be. Probably because I’ve already used up my excitement several days previously when that last plot snarl untangled itself and suddenly the way to the end was clear and so very obvious.
Naturally this plot breakthrough isn’t the last one I’m going to have about this story, and it’s very likely that I’ll come back and scrap the whole idea and go off in a completely different direction. It happens. But for the moment I have a plot arc that I love which comes in manageable chunks with enough vague portions for writing it to still be something of an adventure. Of course that means actually sitting down to write, which, as well all know, is much harder than deciding what to write. But that is a post for another day, so I shall leave you and go coax some words out of my terribly uncooperative brain.