Saturday, September 26, 2015

Of Series and Sevens ...

For some reason, over the last couple of years, when I get a story idea it's never just for a single story, it's for a series. Or at the very least a trilogy. And apparently I'm not alone in this because I've seen a number of series crop up lately.

As a reader, there are times when I like a series and times I don't. When I find a book I really enjoy I never want it to end, and with a series it doesn't have to. At least not right away. Sometimes it's the same characters with new adventures, sometimes it's the same story with new characters. But there's no denying there's a lot of great series out there.

When you're writing a series it really does pay to plan ahead, and coming from a die-hard pantser that's saying something. But writing is nothing if not a learning experience and this is something I learned the hard way.

When I started writing An Elemental Wind I had no thoughts of taking it any further than a single novel. In fact, the working title was simply Space Opera. But it turned out that my main character, Nakeisha, was more powerful than anyone had suspected, and when the mysterious Illezie tested her, they were disappointed she wasn't "the one". But the one what? Hmm. So then I thought I should keep the main story going and started working on An Elemental Fire. At that point I knew there was going to be at least four books, one for each element, and then a fifth one that would tie them all together. But I still had no idea what that main thread was.

The breeding program introduced in Fire was originally intended to create a better, purer elemental, but the question remained, why? With An Elemental Water, which was written to be a mirror of Fire, I came up with the idea that "the One" was going to be the saviour of the Illezie home world somehow and that the breeding program had been started to create this person. But by the end of the book the story started to become more complicated and the concept of the "five who are one" was conceived. Despite there only being only four elements, I knew who the fifth one was going to be, and I finally had some inkling of why they were needed.

In An Elemental Earth we're introduced to Gra'anna, the oldest Illezie still living, and she tells us that the prophecy about "the One" had been twisted over the years, and set the ground work for An Elemental Spirit. But it wasn't until several false starts with Spirit that things finally started falling into place and I knew how my series was going to end. You have no idea what a relief that is!

Meanwhile, I had an idea for a romance trilogy I called the Wishing Star Series. It begins with three women on a getaway weekend to a cabin in the northern woods. On their way there they stop to help a little old lady getting harassed by some teenagers. Turns out the little old lady is a fairy godmother who grants them each a wish, but it has to be for something personal. While sitting around the campfire that night they see the evening star and each wish for their dream man. From there the story splits into three - one for each of them as they've each wished for very different men.

While this is a trilogy, all three stories have the same starting point which makes it much easier. And what makes it even better is that I'm working on all three of them at the same time so I can better keep track of what's going on.

However, and this is where the number seven comes in, when I started world building (because even though they're very different stories they all take place in the same mythical world), I decided that Three Realms didn't have much of a ring to it and that Five Realms sounded better. But that meant I'd have to write two more stories, one for each realm. And then somehow the Five Realms morphed into the Seven Realms, which means I'll have four more stories to write.

BUT, just to keep all these realms straight, I sat down and wrote a prologue that can be used for all of the books, and then in my Desert Realm book, the hero is relating his version of the creation myth to the heroine, so I had to actually come up with a creation myth. And it's pretty cool, if I do say so myself. I might even include it as a introduction to each of the seven books. :-D

And apparently I really like the number seven, because when Gra'anna, in An Elemental Spirit is telling her group about the prophecy and how it's become perverted over the centuries, she mentions seven keys to the Shrine of Knowledge and the seven races that were pretty much in charge of everything before the humans were evolved enough to matter.

There are seven days in the week, seven notes on the musical scale, and there are seven directions - north, south, east, west, up, and down (or if you prefer: up, down, left, right, forward, back, and center). There are seven colours in the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and indigo), seven wonders of the world, and seven continents. The world was created in seven days.

Co-incidence? I think not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Happy First Day of Autumn!

Apparently I took the summer off from this blog, my last post was shortly after the first day of summer.

So ... did you miss me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

I haven't been idle while I've been on my unintended hiatus. I've been pretty steady with the writing, and Lucky Dog is in the merciless loving hands of my editor. The cover is being designed as we speak ... I hope. I'll have to jog my cover artist's (aka the daughter) memory.

I finally figured out why I was having problems getting going on An Elemental Spirit, the final book in my Ardraci Elementals series. Every other book has featured an elemental, plus their soon to be significant other. In other words, I focused on the two main characters and everything is pretty much from their points of view. But Spirit is bringing all of these characters together, so everyone pretty much has equal billing.

However (and you knew there had to be a however coming, didn't you?) however, I finally figured out that I did have two focus figures after all: Gra'anna, the ancient Illezie who's pretty much orchestrating this all, and Kaine, the former mercenary from the as of yet unnamed race/planet who was mentioned briefly at the end of Elemental Water and who has a special role to fulfill in the upcoming events. Finally I have my focus and I can move forward.

In writing a series of stories about the same characters, plan the whole series in advance in some detail, to avoid contradictions and inconsistencies.

~ L. Sprague de Camp

Excellent advice. And it's also a good idea to take a lot of notes as you go along so you're not having to keep going back to previous books for fact checking. Too bad I didn't figure it out until the end of the series. It really does pay to have at least a sketchy idea of the story arc if you're doing a whole series. De Camp's advice is definitely something to keep in mind for future use.

In fact ... I have another space series that I began many (many, many) years ago that involves the human/Kohl-trin war mentioned in my elemental books. I have the first book in the opening trilogy, and a stand alone that takes place after the war already written. But the series itself never went anywhere because I only had a vague idea of what was going on. Once I'm done with the elementals I'll be sitting down with notes, pens, and plenty of paper and figure things out.

It occurs to me that this could be why I have an easier time with my Moonstone Chronicles than my Ardraci Elementals. To be fair to myself, I didn't start out with the intention of writing a series when I wrote my first elemental book. The intention was to write a serial for my blog. But once it was finished I figured I might as well keep going and write one for each of the elements, even though I only had a vague idea of what could possibly tie them all together.

But the Moonstone Chronicles started as a short story that kind of petered out once Jessica was magicked to the magical realm. It sat for a couple of years, and then I had an attack of "what if" and wrote a multi-page back story about the magical realm and Jessica's parents, then continued on with a sketchy outline of Jessica and her story and the final, epic, confrontation with Anakaron, the evil wizard. So even though the books have kind of wandered off track from the original story arc, the back story is still solid and I know what the ultimate goal is.

I'm a panster, I prefer to write by the seat of my pants, so you'd think I'd find knowing how a story is going to end would stifle my creativity. But just because I know the ultimate goal doesn't mean I know how we're getting there - there's still plenty of room to be surprised. As Ensign Harry Kim said on Star Trek:Voyager: maybe it's not the destination that matters. Maybe it's the journey.

Something to think about.

Don't forget to check out my newly updated progress bars to the right, and join me here Saturday when I continue to talk about writing a series and also about ... the number seven. :-D