This is a release day week for me, so I've been scrambling to do all the things that one tries to do for a release day. It's not as much as usual, since this is the release for A Deliverer Comes (Kinsman Chronicles, Part 8), which is an ebook-only release. But it still throws a regular work week into a bit of chaos and makes it hard to stay on schedule. You can learn more about the Kinsman Chronicles here.
As to Onyx Eyes, I've spend a lot of hours in the past few weeks, reading over everything I had in my thick story file, my notebook, and the chapters I'd written. I made a list of plot holes and problems and brainstormed my way through most of them. I've got a pretty good handle on the plot for book one, but since I know I'm going to write a five-book series, I want to take a little time to think through my plans for that, mostly so I know where I'm going and can plant important things that will pay off later. In the past, I've always had a very loose plan for the series I've written. They've gone a little like this:
Blood of Kings: I will have three books. One where Achan finds out who he is. One where he travels around the land and gathers and army. And one where he heads south to fight a war.
The Mission League: I will have one (full-length) book for each summer trip of Spencer's high school years. So in book one, he is finishing up ninth grade, book two: tenth grade, book three: eleventh, and book four: his senior year.
The Safe Lands: In each book the captives will experience a new area of the Safe Lands. Book one: the highlands, book two: the midlands, and book three: the lowlands.
The Kinsman Chronicles: In book one I will destroy the land. In book two they will get on boats to look for a new land. In book three they will fight to get to live in peace in the new land (which will be the same land from the Blood of King's trilogy).
None of those series had all that much of a plan. And while little planning has always (eventually) worked out for me, it's been pretty stressful sometimes. Mostly that was due to deadlines from traditional publishing houses. I always felt like I was racing to finish something that I really had no idea what it was going to be. However, I'm not sure a self-published series would be all that different, since, ideally, one would try and publish each book as quickly as possible so readers didn't have to wait long.
Which is why this time around, I wanted to try and get a little more series plotting done in advance. Even if it's not a lot. Even if I only know twice as much as I knew in those above examples. If I'm going to seriously try and pump out five books in two years, I needed (I wanted) a bigger plan.
Here is how I tackled this plan. First, I filled in the little plot chart I created for last week's post for book one, then I printed four more, one for books two, three, four, and five. Since I have tentative titles and a theme for each story, I wrote those across the top of each page. This is what they say:
Book one: Onyx Eyes. Theme: sin/evil.
Book two: Ruby Eyes. Theme: sacrifice.
Book three: Diamond Eyes. Theme: redemption/rebirth/renewal.
Book four: Emerald Eyes. Theme: Growth/change toward being a stronger, whole person.
Book five: Golden Eyes. Theme: Heaven/eternal life/finding a true home.
This was helpful because, as I plot out each book, I will be able to engineer character situations that fit each theme. So while my initial plan for the "sin" theme in book one was that Drake was going to be performing forbidden magic to bond with a dragon. But now I also plan to have Drake discover that the Aerials are kidnapping humans and enslaving them (more sin theme), that Drake's own government has a traitor (sin theme), and that an even bigger crime had been taking place right under Drake's nose for years (sin theme). So I will reveal many sins/evils in book one, and as I take those various subplots through the series, some will pass through the other themes as well. And in book two, someone will make an incredible sacrifice for Drake (sacrifice theme), then later, he will make a sacrifice for another (sacrifice theme), which will show that he has grown over the course of the first two books (character growth is always good stuff).
The next thing I did was tape together several sheets of paper to create one long paper that I could use to create a three-act structure for the series as a whole story. Then I did some more math. If each book was going to be 24 chapters long, the full series would be 120 chapters long, so my inciting incident for the series should happen somewhere around chapter 12 of book one. My "end of act one/break into two/change of plans" situation should come somewhere around chapter 30 of the series, which would be the the end of chapter six in book two. The midpoint of the series would come at the beginning of chapter 60, which is the exact middle of book three. And so on. I tried to ensure that important things were happening in these general areas.
I marked these key story elements on the long sheet of paper with their corresponding book and chapter information. Then I used sticky notes to add plot points to the series (overall story) timeline. I didn't do a lot of series plotting. Until I write book one, I just don't know enough about my characters or the story to have a clue what might happen in the middle of book four, etc. Plus, things change as I write. But this chart helped me organize my thoughts and plans for the series, and I came up with some good ideas too. Here is a picture of this process:
And a few days later, it looks different still. I've re-read through my entire folder for the Belfaylinn series and used many ideas and notes I found to create scenes, which I put on sticky notes and added to the timeline. Then I wrote what was on each sticky note on the corresponding book plot sheets above. This gave me some good bare bones situations that will occur in each book if I'm going to stay on track toward my planned ending. Like I said before, some of this will very likely change, but I now have direction. I'm not writing into a void or with a super loose plan, wondering how I will fill five books with story. I have direction, and it feels great.