top of page

A Writing Journey


Part 6:
Looking to the Future

There is a big difference between writing a stand-alone book and writing a series, especially if that series features an ongoing story (versus episodic instalments, where each story is self-contained). When writing a story that continues across multiple books, it is crucial to plan ahead. For some authors, this may mean outlining future instalments, but for a discovery writer like me, the best way to plan my series is to write it!

You may recall the definition of a discovery writer from an earlier segment of my writing journey. A discovery writer is someone who 'discovers' their story by writing it. They don't plan ahead much (or can't plan ahead much!) and often don't know what is coming next until they actually write it.

This makes writing a series challenging, as knowing what to write in book one (and when and how to write it) is often dependant on what will happen later in the series. While I usually have a vague idea of where the story will go in future installments, much of the world-building, character development, and specific plot beats are a mystery to me. And, since all my stories end up becoming series regardless of my intentions, it has become a natural part of my process to start drafting the next book in the series before finishing the first book.

Ideally, I would have a first or second draft written for every book in a series before I start any serious editing, but this makes the long process of writing a book MUCH longer. Usually, I start working on drafts of the sequel somewhere during the editing stage of the first book.

While this is still helpful, it isn't ideal. The more I work on the sequel, the more things I find about the first book that could or should change to allow the narrative to better develop. I discover secrets that need foreshadowing, or realize I haven't left enough room for future character development. And as I spend more time world-building for the sequel, I often find information in the first book becomes out-dated.

This isn't a big problem in the drafting stage when changes are easier to make, but it does get tricky once I've spent a lot of time editing, as this may mean I have to rewrite things I've already spent considerable time polishing. It can also mean the first book never feels 'done', as I keep thinking of more things I'd like to change or update. As such, planning ahead is one of the areas I hope to improve on as I continue to develop my craft as a writer!

With When Shadows Fall, I was giving some thought to the sequels during the initial drafting stage, including brainstorming and outlining, but it was only after I made the decision to self-publish the first book that I really turned my attention to drafting the sequel. Unfortunately, I jumped to editing When Shadows Fall earlier than I should have, instead of focusing on the sequels and making sure I had all the pieces in place. Because of this, I continued to make changes to the world-building and plot elements well into the editing stage!

A smarter, less impatient me might have waited until I had a solid draft for the sequel and perhaps even a first draft of the third book before pushing the first book into editing. This would have saved time in the long run and made it easier to create the proper build-up in book one. I plan to start drafting the third book before doing too much more work on the sequel, so that I am better able to see how book two needs to unfold!

bottom of page