Series Planning – Main Plot Organizing

As of the last post, I had two columns of ideas: Main Plots and Subplots. However, in order to plot out and write the first book, they needed to be organized. I needed to know exactly what needed to go in the first book, and what ideas needed to be held off for future books.

The solution came in the form of a spreadsheet specifically designed to give an overview of the series (or at least what I had of it). It is formatted very simply.

Along the top were the book numbers.

Below that was a quick description of the main book idea. These were taken from the Main Plot list I mentioned before. These are the conflicts/plots that last for only one book.

At first this process was messy. As I sorted through the Main Plot lists and arranged book ideas, I quickly found that I had to rearrange them. Some obviously came before or after others. Also, some on second glance weren’t very big ideas, but when combined with other Main Ideas really came alive.

As with so many things in writing, there is a time to be messy. For this process, I was definitely messy. That was okay, because it was also exhilarating. For the first time the ideas started to take on form and substance. Order was being made out of the chaos.

Look, a light at the end of the tunnel!

For me, the easiest type of Main Plot to start with was the Book Plot. It’s smaller and easier to see where it’s place among the other Book Plots. For some, it might be easier to organize the Multi-book Plots first and see where the books hang from it. For yet others it will be a hybrid of both ways.

Gaps were something I was worried about while brainstorming. As I was putting the ideas in orders it became obvious where some of the gaps were. I didn’t try to fill in the gaps at this point. It was too early. There were too many other ideas, both Main and Subplot, to go through. So, I left the Book Description empty.

And when I started, there were a lot of empty Book Descriptions.


Column 1                         Col 2                                   Col 3                                       Col 4
Book#                              Book 1                                Book 2                                    Book 3
Book Description        Description                    Description                  Description (No idea – Think of Later)

Next came the Multi-book Plots, the types of conflicts that spanned over several books. I found that I had several. Naming each of them helped me define what each one was about. Defining helped me see that a few of the Book Plots were actually steps or progression in the Multi-book Plots.

The names of the new Multi-book Plots started new rows on the spreadsheet. In the book columns, I plotted the progression of each of the Multi-book Plots with a start, middle and conclusion.
With the new rows, even more gaps became apparent, but they also gave me more ideas on individual book plots. As a consequence a few more Book Descriptions were filled in. Again, if there was an obvious gap in the progression of a Multi-book Plots, I left a cell blank. There were plenty more ideas to sort through, and the answer to that gap might be found in them.

As several rows of Multi-book Plots were added, it became apparent that they staggered in the series timeline. Some ended in only a few books and some spanned many. Some started at the beginning of the series, some didn’t start until several books in. Some were long, some were short. Some inspired others.

This excited me, as it will allow one Multi-book Plots to rise up as another diminishes. Yet, it won’t be so jarring to a reader as the foundation was laid ahead of time.

NOTE: In place of ” Main Plot #1″, type in the name/description of the main plot. To help organize them you can color-code them.

Column 1:
Book #
Book Description
Main Plot #1
Main Plot #2
Main Plot #3

Next up, the Subplot Ideas and the Salmon Run series progression

Note: At the end of the next segment will be a sample spreadsheet for download.
“The E-Book Experiment” chronicles the business and creative side of an experiment with the business opportunities new technology and creative outlets now afford content producers. Will it fail? Will it succeed? The only way to know is to approach it with a solid plan and try. No regrets!

I hope the details of this journey will be a help to other authors. As the process proceeds to selling the final products I will also share hard data that might be useful in the decision making process of other authors who recognize that only they can take charge of their careers. For a listing of all the posts in this series, please click here.

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