It’s no secret that I love interconnected stories written across multiple volumes. For me, one story, whether a short story, a novel, or a movie, is nothing more than an introduction to the characters and their world. It’s when you start to develop follow-up tales that you really get to explore them!
I know that every writer approaches their craft differently, but for me I slowly develop the overall story arch as I work on each tale in the series.
For instance, when I wrote the first novel of The Sword of Dragons, I knew how I wanted the series to end, but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there. By the time I finished the second novel, Burning Skies, I had started to figure out how I would get there, and while writing book 2 I laid several eggs that would one day hatch into the plots that would lead to the end.
Last night, that all changed. An idea occurred to me, one that I found exciting and invigorating! So what should I do? Should I say “Well that would have been cool, but I’ve already got the story plotted out”? Heck no! This, my friends, is not the first time this has happened.
Back in 1999 I started a fan fiction series. To some writers, fan fiction is a taboo, but I’m not at all ashamed of my series. I wrote it for many reasons, but one of my primary goals was to simply practice writing and receive feedback from others. It was a huge help to honing my craft!
I wrote it for 7 seasons, and each season had a different story arch. When I started developing season 3, I came up with a system where I plotted out the general story of each episode as well as the overall story arch, and this method worked so well that I used it for every season after.
By the time season 3 was over, I had developed seasons 4 and 5’s plan, I knew exactly where the story would go for them. Then all of that changed when an exciting idea occurred to me right before I began writing the first season 5 episode. The stories I ended up writing for season 5 have almost nothing to do with my original plans. The same thing ended up happening for season’s 6 and 7.
The best part was that the changed story plots actually worked better for all of the groundwork I had previously laid. In that final season, seemingly minor events in the previous stories all came together seamlessly, and made for a fun, entertaining, and moving story!
I think a big reason why this worked so well was that the original connections I wanted to draw between the earlier and later seasons were forced. What I ended up writing felt more natural.
Follow Your Instinct
My point to all of this is simple: as a writer, I’ve learned to trust my inner voice. If I’ve got the story plotted out, and then something different and exciting clicks in my head, well that tells me my original plans were lacking, and something in my unconscious mind came up with a new direction to spice it up!
This not only makes writing the story much more interesting and challenging for me, but it also makes the end-product far more entertaining for the readers! This can lead you in directions you never would have imagined before, and learning to ‘go with the flow’ of your imagination can help improve your writing!
However…yes, that evil word. This advice can be dependent upon multiple factors. Every writer is different, their process of coming up with stories and writing them down is as varied as can be. So if your mind goes 100 different directions at once, it may be wiser for you to stick with what you’ve already decided upon, rather than changing your long-term story plan every hour. That can lead to intense frustration.
So more than anything, follow your instinct. It’s been my experience that most writers are extremely passionate about their work! That means what ever your inner voice is telling you, it probably is telling you exactly what your heart wants you to do. If changing the story feels right, do it! If it doesn’t feel right, reconsider.
Well anyway, that’s a lot of advice, some of it may almost seem conflicting. I’m interested to hear what your opinions are on these topics, so please feel free to leave comments!
Thanks for reading :)