Following The Map (Writing Tip #33)

I'm 68,000 words into my supernatural teen novel that I'm going to hand in next month. I'm feeling good about book one of the four-book series. I'm constantly reminded that when you're doing a series, you have to not only think about the current book you're working on but the subsequent ones. It's been challenging but fun at the same time. 

Before diving into this project, I wrote out a synopsis for all four books, complete with character sketches and backstories. So in a sense, I've been working off a story map. But here are some thoughts I have for writing a story when you already have the novel (and the series) outlined:

1. Don't be afraid to deviate. Publishers might not like to hear this, but sometimes the story dictates this. The beauty of creating is seeing where the road takes you. Even if you know what the story is about and where it's ultimately going to go, you need to allow yourself the freedom to explore side roads. 

2. Allow yourself to be surprised by situations and characters' actions just like they might be. 

3. When you map out a story in a few pages, it might work in those few pages. But once you're well into the journey, it might not work as planned. Again, allow yourself the freedom for the story to be natural and not forced. 

4. Once you start to get to know the characters, their attitudes and actions might change. This might put you into a situation where you say "I didn't see that coming." Yet this is a great thing to happen. This forces you to work harder.

5. The outcome can be the same even if the circumstances behind it are different. Certain things have changed in my novel because of the natural progression of the story. But the outcome I have will still be the same. 

6. Keep careful notes! Thankfully I have an editor who will keep me in line once I hand the book in. But I have to do my job in keeping the facts straight. Just because I have an original story map doesn't mean that it can't change as I go along. 

7. Know your backstory. That way characters will have motivations and situations will occur that make sense and have meaning. 

8. Know your destination. If you have four books planned, hopefully you have all four stories figured out. What's the ultimate point of all four books? Where's the story arc in those four books and how do the events in book one impact the rest?

I always suggest to do a story map before diving into a novel. But remember some of these suggestions. Allow yourself the freedom to roam and explore. Allow yourself the time to get to know your characters and their motivations. Allow the story to come out naturally. Hopefully the end result will be something that moves the reader and sets them up to eagerly await your next one. 

Labels: ,