|Photo courtesy of Visual Hunt|
One of the advantages of being a slow writer is that I have plenty of time to contemplate the chapters I’ve already written. It’s not at all uncommon for me to be in the middle of one chapter and suddenly think of something that should have been added to an earlier one. In fact, this happens so often, and my stories have become so much better because of these additions, that I’m almost grateful for being a slow writer.
But all this time for reflection doesn’t just apply to the past. Looking forward can be just as important. Sometimes, during those quiet times when I’m not writing, I think about the next book in the series. Now it might seem that plotting the next book is kind of silly when I’m still plodding along with the first one, but successful writers need to think ahead. And some of the ideas I’ve developed for book two has led to a richer plot in book one.
Knowing what the next book will be about allows a writer to know the kinds of things that should be added to the first book in order to make the transition between books easier. For example, are you going to need a new villain in book two? Then maybe we should meet them in book one, even if it’s only a cameo appearance.
Here are some of the aspects I’ve focused on as of late.
Future relationships: When I began my current WIP, I wasn’t planning on any sort of romance, but part way through it occurred to me the MC might be attracted to one of the characters she meets. Sparks won’t fly in this book, but who knows about the next one? I might as well plan for it now. To that end, I’ve given both characters traits that will tend to derail any lasting relationship in the future. Will they be able to overcome these problems? I don’t know, but thanks to a little forethought, the potential for conflict is now in place. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the Hallmark Channel, it’s that no conflict is too big for love to overcome.
Characters traits: I hate it when a character acts differently in the second book of a series simply because the plot requires it. Make sure you’ve already foreshadowed the reason for this behavior in book one. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone, we learn that Hagrid isn’t supposed to do magic, although we don't learn why until the second book, where it turns out to be a part of the plot. It wasn’t a huge deal, but foreshadowing these things not only makes the series seem richer, but it makes the story world seem more real to the reader. At least it does for me.
Future goals of both the protagonists and the antagonists: Planning now can help keep you from wrapping the storyline up too quickly. In my current WIP, my original idea was to have the bad guy’s big bad plan be completely spoiled by the MC’s actions during book one. I have since made the plan more comprehensive, so that now the MC’s actions only lead to a setback, not a complete defeat. Luke may have blown up the Death Star, but that didn’t mean the Empire was finished.
You don’t have to know every detail of your next book before you finish your first one, but a little forethought can go a long way to keeping you from painting yourself into a corner. And in my opinion, there’s no better inspiration for finishing a book than having the next book in the series demanding to be written.