Author Topic: How Do You Outline Your Series?  (Read 5919 times)

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Offline Whizbee

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How Do You Outline Your Series?
« on: May 23, 2008, 10:33 AM »
Do you outline your whole series before you start writing it or just keep notes as you go along?

I'm not much of an outliner, but I figure that in order to make multiple sequels fit together I might have to outline the whole set before I start writing the first one. Do you think this is true?

Also, do you have a certain way of outlining your series/sequels--what kinds of things are important to keep track of?
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Gina Black

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2008, 10:49 AM »
I'm interested in the answers to this. I'm just finishing the first of probably four. I'm slightly at a loss as to what to do for the other three, although I have ideas. I'm wondering if I need to have a better idea before I start submitting.

Offline Jessica Burkhart

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #2 on: May 23, 2008, 11:53 AM »
I outline each book before I write it, but I keep things flexible. If something changes in book two, let's say, I'm very open and able to change the outline of book three to match. I keep a binder of important plot points and facts for each book--such as eye color, character history, relationships, etc. in case I forgot something for later books.

With a series, it's definitely easier (for me) to outline than just write and see where it goes. But it may be different for you. :)

Anastasia

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2008, 12:21 PM »
I think it depends on the type of series. If it's one LONG story - then yes, you need an outline for everything. When it's the same character in a NEW story, then I just keep a series "bible" so I remember who did in each book. (The kids will remember if I don't!)

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RyanBruner

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2008, 12:23 PM »
I think this can be widely different, depending on the type of series.  If you have a series with a complete arc that spans multiple books in the series, then you will probably need to have some level of outline or synopsis written out.

If the series is more of an adventure (or whatever) in one book that is done, and then in book two you just start a new adventure, then not so much.

In my case, I have written book one of what COULD turn out to be a 4-book series.  I have 4 books plotted out, and that completes the story I have to tell.  There is a lot of leeway in that plot...but there are key plot elements that MUST be met in order for the entire story to work.  Once book one is published, I can't go back and fix it should I find in, say, Book three I decide to go in a different direction.  That's because certain things happen in book one (even though it isn't obvious to the reader) that tie to things that will happen in subsequent books.

For me, however, most of my "outline" is in my head.  I have notes/ideas.  But I know what is going to happen in each book well enough to not write it down.  I will, however, write out an outline for each book as I reach it, should it ever come to that.

Offline Whizbee

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2008, 02:12 PM »
Once book one is published, I can't go back and fix it should I find in, say, Book three I decide to go in a different direction. 

That's what I'm worried most about! It seems like if you have a series with one big overarching plot, then you better make sure things are place before you publish the first book.

OTOH, sometimes outlining can be stifling. Too much of it kills my creativity. Maybe, like Jessica seems to be suggesting, the key is to outline but to also be flexible about making changes? I'm thinking about how Paolini had planned to write a triliogy but recently decided that his series was going to have to include a fourth book.
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Offline Jessica Burkhart

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2008, 02:34 PM »
Yeah, I think flexibility is important and to be open to allow the characters to move in different directions if need be. :)

Offline Pippa

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2008, 07:15 PM »
I have a series with the first book being shopped by my agent so I relate to the nail-biting over "what if I set it up all wrong!" or "I missed one huge clue in Bk 1 that will be essential for book 2 or 3". Ultimately I have to go with my own peculiar way of approaching each story - I have a beginning, middle and end in mind, with so many plot elements that I know I have to include, and I write and see where my MC takes me. She's very strong-willed.

I'm like you Whizbee, I squelch my excitement and creativity if I outline or plan too much.

I have to say I'm refining my technique; hoping that I will cut down on all the editing and re-writing I have to do by the end of the book, but I can't see it happening. Somehow that's all part of the fun.
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Offline KateMessner

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2008, 07:17 PM »
I'd love to hear more about what's in a "series bible" for anyone who has done one. 
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Offline Whizbee

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #9 on: June 07, 2008, 05:30 PM »

I'm like you Whizbee, I squelch my excitement and creativity if I outline or plan too much.

I have to say I'm refining my technique; hoping that I will cut down on all the editing and re-writing I have to do by the end of the book, but I can't see it happening. Somehow that's all part of the fun.


Sounds just like me--the editing kills me.

Like Spitfire, I'd also like to hear more about series bibles.
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Legionsynch

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2008, 08:10 AM »
I kinda have a series bible.  Sortof. 

Basically, it's just an MS Word doc that's split up into an Encyclopedia section, a Who's Who section, and a separate Magic and Visions section for those topics.

The Encyclopedia is just alphabetical entries about important locations, historical notes, or events from the book that may or not make it into a second draft.  The Who's Who just references every character that made an appearance, or was mentioned in the first book, along with a chapter # for where they appeared (since the actual page numbers keep changing).  And then the Magic and Visions section covers the rules of magic, the ways I've used it already in the book, and the visions that made an appearance and what they actually mean.

It's just another way to express my OCD. :)

Offline Carrie Ryan

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2008, 08:16 AM »
I don't tend to outline individual books so I haven't outlined my series.  Of course, when I wrote and sold my first book I thought it was a stand alone and it wasn't until later that my ed asked for another book (and I'm hoping that will turn into another two books).  I have a vague general sense in my head of what an overarching theme would be for the series and how each book plays into that theme.  But other than that... I don't know much more.

I agree, though, that you can write yourself into a corner with book one if you haven't outlined the series.  I have plenty of friends who have suggested that they'd write the entire three books before publishing them -- they found writing that third book and tying everything together to be really difficult.  As for me, I just have to figure out ways out of the corners I created in book one :)
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Offline Pippa

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2008, 08:30 AM »
Just thort I should add that I do keep notes ... piles of jottings on scrap paper, napkins - even the back of a HP book cover that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when I needed some blank paper. I do keep a special binder for the real important stuff like the chronology, maps I've drawn, ages, places, names, timing, etc. If a jotting is going to work, it goes in the binder; if I've used it already or it's not going to fit, then I trash it.

I'll even draw a line representing the arc of the story and mark it where I need to time the conflicts leading to the climax, but it gets crowded with other stuff and always changes. Otherwise, I make notes in the MS, noting plot points and scroll down to check them as I type.

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Legionsynch

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2008, 12:07 PM »
When I was writing my book, I knew that I would have liked it to be a trilogy.  I had a general idea of what the stories were going to be about, and how each book was going to focus on a different element of the storyline.  But I didn't get too caught up in working out the details of the second and third book, because everything I've read suggests to shy away from that.  So I had a pretty good idea of where things in the second book were going to go, but only a vague idea of the third book.

Then my agent asked for outlines for the second and third book, and I panicked and blanked.  I really wish, now, that I'd worked a lot of the main brushstrokes of the story out ahead of time.  I'd have saved myself a lot of headaches in the long run.  I worked through it, which was great, but it was still rough there for a minute.

Offline Christine Norris

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2008, 01:03 PM »
Mine isn't so much of an outline as points I need to absolutely include in order to further the overarching plotline. Because each book has a plot, then the series has a plot, and they all come together in the final book.

I wrote the first two books in my series before I sold them. The first one can be a standalone, and so can the second, but now I'm writing the third and things are getting serious.  :) Serious in that now the series plot will be revealed. It's supposed to be a five book series, so really book three is the tipping point. Sort of like Harry Potter - Books 1-3 were lighter, Book 4 is where Voldy returns and things get dark, then it's all down hill for the last three books.

I also found things in book one that I fixed while writing book two that I was able to fix. AND I keep a notebook of names - including horse's names, because I sent them riding and couldn't remember once - hair color, eye color, parent's names (which I needed in book three), and birthdays. No one may ever know the birthdays but me, but it keeps me straight about how old everyone is. Within individual books, I'm not a huge outliner, much more of a panster, but I'm learning to LIKE taking notes. :)
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Offline Jen

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Re: How Do You Outline Your Series?
« Reply #15 on: July 07, 2008, 03:58 PM »
I'm currently working on the first book in a four book series right now.  Because my publisher specifically asked me to do a 3-4 book series, I did a lot more initial planning for the course of the series starting out than I usually do, and in some ways, I think that tripped me up, because I found myself pulling a lot of punches in book one, because I'd think "okay, this happens in book two, and this in book three."  I just finished revising (completely rewriting to the extent that only 5k out of 75k of the original remained), and the biggest change I've noticed is that book 1 now contains the plot from what I'd conceptualized as books 1-3.  So I came up with new ideas for books two and three, and I'm much happier with this version of the series as a whole.  I know that certain elements from book 1 are going to be significant later on, and I know where I ultimately want to end up, but I've found that for me (and for another series author that I brainstorm a lot with), the problem with looking at the picture can often be that the little picture (or whichever book you're currently working on) can suffer for it.  My new motto for series is "don't pull your punches."