Series Planning – Too Many Ideas

So, it’s official. For “Salmon Run” the decision is to go with Open Series Stand-Alone novellas. But, what does this mean for the planning?

For one, it defines what the series needs to fit into. The full list now is:

  • New project
  • Project must be ready for release somewhere between January to March 2011
  • Novella length (17,500 to 40,000 words)
  • Open Series Stand Alone Novellas

Great. I can work with that.

When it comes to planning the above tells me:

  • Each book idea must be self-contained with a good satisfying climax.
  • Each book must push forward main story plots that progress over several books.
  • I cannot put too much in each book, as the length will not allow it.

And I had ideas for the series. Lots of them. Almost too many of them. Obviously they can’t go into only one novella, or even three or four. No, they needed to be spaced out more than that.

But first I needed to figure out what each idea was: a Main Plot or a Subplot?

Main Plots:

A Main Plot is the primary focus of the story, the driving force that moves the story forward and on which other ideas and subplots hang off of. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell a Main Plot from a Subplot, but looking at their reaching scope can help differentiate between them. Then there is the additional complication that sometimes a Subplots will become complex enough and big enough to turn into a Main Plot.

Main Plots consist of two forms:

Book Plots are typically the smaller form in that they last only one individual book, even though the ramifications may ripple through future books. This is a single definable conflict that plays out over an entire book, providing the underneath backbone of the entire book.

Multi-book Plots are a larger and longer form. A conflict will play out over several books culminated in one or more major events that will change the course of the books or the characters lives. These may be conflicts that lurk in the background for a while, but then will pop up as major events, themes, or plots in future books.

Subplots:

Subplots can extend across books, as well, but just don’t have enough meat to them to support an entire book on their own. They are still important, vitally so, as they make the story complex, interesting, personal, and alive. While the Main Plots are the main meal, the Subplots are the spicing that make the meal great.

Subplots can consist of many things. Also note that if any of the following are big enough, then they upgrade to a Main Idea:

  • Characters growing and changing, whether it be to the good or bad.
  • Small plot twists that help support the main ideas.
  • Romances.
  • Developing friendships, whether it be to the good or bad.
  • Failing friendships/relationships.
  • Development of an enemy/antagonist.
  • A changing environment (can be a change in season, environment destruction, fires, weather, and so on).
  • Adapting to life-upheavals.
  • Revelations of the past.

And many more too numerous to mention.

As the ideas were sorted I divided them up into two columns. One column was Main Plots, the other Subplots. While doing this, I started to see how some of them interconnected. Some obviously came before or after others. Some were related. Some tracked relationships or series of events. This in turn sparked even more ideas.

And the two columns grew longer and longer.

This became a problem. I knew there were gaps and contradictions, but I couldn’t see them. They were a jumble, and looking at it made me want to hide it under the bed where I didn’t have to look at the mess.

Obviously a better way of organizing was required to make sense of all the ideas.

This series was going to be an “Open Series Stand Alone Novellas”. I could get away with a little less planning at the beginning for the series itself, but nothing could be scrimped when it came to the first book. The first book had to stand on its own. It had to be a great introduction to not only the series, but also to the characters and locations that would make up the series.

It had to be strong. And that meant I had to find a way to sort and organize all the ideas so I could see what had to go into the first book.

I needed a better way of organizing.

Next up: An Organizing Solution!

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“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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