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When I come up with a concept for a series I typically have a broad overview of the story. Think of it like looking at the earth via a satellite image. You get the big picture, but you really need to zoom in to see the details. The very make up of the planet is virtually invisible until you take a closer look. This is where I encounter problems when I sit down to write.
I have yet to come up with a concept that I feel would fit into a single book. Each concept I have come up with spans a minimum of four books. So I know how the series will begin, I know how it will end, and for the most part, I know the major conflict that my MC will overcome to get from point A to point B. What I struggle with, are all of the “molecular” details. A series can’t consist of just one high level conflict. And stretching a single conflict out into four books would be overkill on the reader without giving them something more. That would be like giving someone a 20 oz bottle of water and sending them off to spend a week in the desert, during the peak summer months, with nothing more to sustain them.
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This is where subplots come into play. Rather than rushing through a story that spans several years in a single book or painstakingly plotting every minute detail to bulk up the four (or more) books, it’s all about finding that right balance. Subplots can help drive the story forward or help take it in a whole other direction when needed.
As I write this blog and research subplot creation, it brings to mind something else that contributes to my struggle. Often you hear that outlining is essential to novel writing. I have attempted this before, but it has never panned out and the story tended to go running in the opposite direction causing me to abandon all the prep work I had done. But perhaps this is because I have a very limited view on how to outline. In school, I was taught to outline in chapters. The story should be broken out into chapters and for each chapter, you write a brief description of what will be discussed in that chapter. This technique has never worked for me. Picking apart a story, chapter by chapter, makes more sense than building one that way. I know, it sounds crazy, but until I actually sit down and start writing, I have no idea how many chapters my book is going to have or what each of these chapters will consist of. My brain refuses to cooperate in this fashion and prefers to tinker and rebuild whenever possible.
But after doing some reading on subplots, the concept of the arc (and no, this is not the first time I’ve heard of an arc) got me to thinking. Perhaps instead of trying to force myself to do this chapter outline that seems to be the bane of my existence as an author, I could try doing a sort of graph outline, one that plots the main story arc and each of the sub plot arcs. It would seem that this is where my Accounting and Finance background will actually help my writing, something I never thought possible since I write fiction and none of my characters work in related fields.
I am now excited to boot up Excel and toy around with graphing out my story lines. I
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can already see how this will help me with my newest book, the first of four books in a coming of age series. Aside from the main arc of the MC’s development, there will be several subplots that explain how she becomes the person she does. Each book will focus on a different stage of her growth, but the subplots will be the driving forces behind these stages.
If this works out well, I will give it a shot with the Eye of the Vampire series that is still a WIP. Maybe it will help me get past some of the hurdles that are making it difficult for me complete the edit of the first book and complete writing the second and third books.
Off to the drawing board I go. Wish me luck!