Series, –ologies, and Outlines

 A while back I got a question about planning ahead and the WebMage world come in and I thought the answer might be something I should share.

How far in advance do (did) you plan what happens to your characters. Did you know most of the things early on, or did they come to you as time went by? For example, (J) wondered about Ravirn’s name change.

That depends on the specifics and when I wrote a given book. I tend to know much more much earlier at this point in my writing career than I did when I started out.

So, Cybermancy was much more thoroughly plotted out than WebMage. I didn’t know about Ravirn’s name change in WebMage until a couple of weeks before I wrote it, though I knew that I wanted Ravirn cast out of his family months beforehand–the name change was a detail triggered by listening to Jane Yolen on a panel about trickster characters.

In terms of the impact of the Raven thing on Cybemancy, I literally had no idea until I started writing Cybermancy, because at the time I wrote WebMage I had no plans for a sequel. I only started playing with the idea of a second book when my agent suggested I might want to think about that if the eventual publisher asked for one.

Likewise, when I finished Cybermancy I wasn’t planning for more books, because the numbers hadn’t started coming in. But very shortly thereafter WebMage hit and almost immediately went into a second printing, and that suggested that it was something I should be thinking about. So, I figured out much of what I wanted to do with CodeSpell and MythOS the September after WebMage came out, though I didn’t write the proposals for another two months.

At the time I’m writing this, Book V, assuming there is a one, is roughly plotted in terms of the highly technical “things what has to happen” model but not in terms of a sequence of events. The looseness of this process is in part because WebMage wasn’t planned as a series and has just sort of grown, and in part because it’s an open ended series and not an –ology of any sort.

The Black School books (a trilogy of which two are now written) were always planned as a three book arc, with me knowing the broad outlines of II and III before I ever started writing I. The proposal for II and III looks radically different in terms of specifics than it would have if I’d written it before writing I, but the big events and the arc are much the same as they have always been.

(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog November 27 2007, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)